Merri, Merri, Quite Contrerri

Day two of the Queensland election campaign had been dominated by point scoring over child abuse, accusations of financial irresponsibility, the land clearing debate, and other matters The Poll Bludger would be better off leaving to people who know about such things. Then in the early evening the campaign suddenly came to life, from both a psephological and political perspective, thanks to that incessant source of bad news Merri Rose (the Minister for Racing, Gaming and Tourism). Most of the headaches Rose caused during the current term related to her extremely liberal attitude as to what constitutes proper use of her electorate car, but there was also the problem of her evidently imperious attitude towards the many lesser mortals who worked for her. Reports of Rose abusing drivers and intimidating staff members emerged in mid-2002, just in time for the launch of a nanny state government awareness campaign about workplace bullying (for more on Rose’s travails, check the profile of her electorate of Currumbin in the Poll Bludger’s guide to the Queensland election).

Late today the workers’ compensation regulator, Q-Comp (here I must say that I am willing to lend public support to any party promising to abolish proactive new-age names for government agencies like this one) found that Rose had pressured a staffer into falsifying documents, a matter that will now be investigated by the Crime and Misconduct Commission. Attempting to recall historical parallels for the current state of affairs, two events spring to The Poll Bludger’s mind – Phillip Lynch’s resignation as Treasurer going into the 1977 federal election, and Victorian Shadow Treasurer Robert Dean being ineligible to stand in 2002 because he was falsely enrolled. Readers are invited to email me here if they can think of others.

This doesn’t help us much, because Lynch’s party romped home in the first case and Dean’s was annihilated in the second. But this is Peter Beattie we’re talking about here, and whether it’s genius or dumb-ass luck we’re dealing with, you can take it for granted that the former example is likely to be nearer the mark. For one thing, the loss of Rose might be described as a mixed curse. To lose even one minister always looks like carelessness, but in one sense Beattie must be relieved that his cabinet is no longer carrying Rose’s baggage. Presumably he had at least some inkling that the release of a Q-Comp finding was afoot and calculated that such an event early in the campaign would be quickly forgotten. If so he was most likely correct – despite headlines like "Minister resigns, rocking Beattie" (from NineMSN, who surely don’t need a link from little old me), the fate of the state tourism minister is unlikely to cause the electorate enough alarm to sustain them through even this brief an election campaign.

From an election buff’s perspective though, Rose’s Gold Coast electorate of Currumbin is looking more interesting than ever. It shouldn’t be, with her margin of 14.5 per cent, but the area in which her electorate is located is more ripe than most for a correction at the coming poll. Last time around the swings to Labor in this neighbourhood ranged from a modest 10.3 per cent in Burleigh to a mere 18.4 per cent in Mudgeeraba. These people have voted conservative before and can very easily do so again, especially if the opinion polls continue to make an overall Labor victory appear a foregone conclusion.

More comment tomorrow on the Theresa Millard situation in Townsville, providing I wake up early and unhungover enough.

Queensland election: Day 1 highlights

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 flash: Beattie calls Queensland election

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.

Greetings from the Poll Bludger

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.