Queenslanders, pundits, opposition MPs and Poll Bludgers alike were caught on the hop when news emerged around 11am that Peter Beattie was interrupting his holidays to pass on his personal regards to Governor Quentin Bryce. The outline of Beattie’s strategy has been quick to emerge – catch the Opposition on the hop, keep the campaign short and aggressively push the message that the Government will do nowhere near as well as everybody says.
A mark of his success on the first point was the manner in which the National Party website, dormant for a fortnight, suddenly spluttered back into action yesterday. The party still hasn’t nominated candidates for a number of seats allocated to it in the coalition agreement, including theoretically winnable Thuringowa and Hervey Bay. As for the Liberals, if you’re in the vicinity of their head office in the next few days and have nothing on in the coming weeks, you might want to volunteer your services as candidate for one of the many unwinnable seats the party won the right to contest as part of the coalition agreement (more on that at a later date).
It remains the conventional wisdom that One Nation will only cause trouble in a few regional seats, but it would be putting it mildly to say that the Hanson phenomenon has thrown up surprises before. One Nation are calling for their former messiah to "play a role" in their campaign, while Hanson herself is not ruling out the possibility of entering the ring as a candidate, although most talk since her release from prison has been that she would either run for the Senate or indulge in a spiteful, pointless gesture by standing against Tony Abbott in Warringah. Unless Hanson involves herself personally, the conventional wisdom is hard to fault on this occasion.
The Poll Bludger has long assumed that shrill child protection advocate Hetty Johnston would take advantage of the current political climate by running as an independent, as she has done in previous elections. But she is instead talking about running for the Senate, surely an act of folly unless there is a double dissolution. In any circumstance, the last thing Australian parliaments need is another Franca Arena.
News.com.au reports that Peter Beattie is on his way to Government House to call a state election for February 7. Both the date and the announcement have come earlier than most expected, fortuitously on the same day that the Courier Mail reported the Government would enter the campaign with a $400 million stamp duty windfall to play with.
For more information on the contest now at hand, pundits are once again reminded to look no further than the Poll Bludger’s seat-by-seat guide to the Queensland election.
Welcome to the first ever posting from The Poll Bludger. I am a Melbourne-based amateur psephologist hoping to use the magic of the internet to impart the accumulated wisdom of a life spent obsessing over the Australian electoral process. As anyone who is truly in touch with the aspirations of mainstream Australia can tell you, millions of people out there are crying out for a one-stop point of access for the very latest information on preselection contests, preference deals, electoral redistributions and all the other things that make Australian democracy such a uniquely pulse-quickening affair. The Poll Bludger offers all this and more.
In its present state of infancy the site’s showpiece is this guide to the forthcoming Queensland election, featuring a summary of each of the 89 seats in the Sunshine State’s single house of parliament. For a while talk had been for an election date to coincide with statewide council elections on March 27, but with the Crime and Misconduct Commission into foster home child abuse out of the way and a recent Newspoll showing little if any damage to the government from the whole unfortunate episode, most have their eye on Beattie’s return from holidays on January 19. It is widely expected that his first item of business will be a visit to the Governor to call an election for either February 21 or 28.
A corresponding guide to the federal election is at an earlier stage of development and could probably do with a bit of proof-reading even in its current form, but it can already claim to be the only place on the internet attempting to keep track of the candidates for each electorate as they announce themselves. If you have bothered to read this far you will probably already be aware that said election will either be a double dissolution held in the first half of the year or a normal House of Reps plus half-Senate in the second – not being ready yet, The Poll Bludger both hopes for and expects the latter.