Deputy Premier’s last-minute dash to secure ALP support
PREMIER Annastacia Palaszczuk dispatched her top lieutenant to Cairns on the eve of the election in an urgent effort to push her Far North MPs over the line.
Deputy Premier Steven Miles was on two key missions when he landed at Cairns Airport on Friday afternoon.
First, he was here to deflect any flak over borders remaining shut to Sydney and Victoria. Second, as health Minister he needed to upsell Labor's commitment to the Cairns University Hospital.
LNP Leader Deb Frecklington scored a lot of votes when she joined the Operation 2025 campaign with $160 million to build the Cairns University Hospital upgrades.
The ball was in Labor's court to lock down bipartisanship but days and weeks passed and that big-dollar pledge never arrived.
Speaking just after his plane landed, Dr Miles said Labor had good reason to only commit to buying the required land and carrying out a preliminary business case.
"Right now we're building the $70 million mental health building … then we'll expand the ED," he said.
"While we do both things, we'll do the planning work (on the university hospital) so a decision can be made on the new building on the new site in a budget next year or the year after, probably.
"My guess is that ($160 million) would get you the first stage, but the current expenditure at Caboolture and Logan are both $400-$500 million.
"That's why I didn't want to just take a figure that hadn't been through a proper planning process."
Whether that assurance and Labor's other health pledges hold enough weight to keep Cook, Barron River, Cairns and Mulgrave red remains to be seen.
Dr Miles said he was in Cairns because the Far North was on a knife's edge.
"The election could well be decided here," he said.
"We have a two-seat majority and four seats up here.
"I'm doing everything I can to convince every last voter to stay the course with our government that's prioritised health and jobs … "
Ladbrokes shortened odds yesterday for Labor's Michael Healy to hold Cairns at $1.50 compared to LNP candidate Sam Marino on $2.20.
Mr Marino was not fazed, saying pre-polling had been "all blue" in recent days - although it would be a close one.
"If I do win, it will be historic," he said.
"I've done the work."
Labor sources confirmed the LNP had performed well last week but said there had been a late shift - and Labor did not lose a single booth for Cairns on election day in 2017.
An upset is predicted for Barron River with the LNP's Linda Cooper ($1.65) tipped to beat incumbent Labor MP Craig Crawford ($2.15).
Cook should go in Labor MP Cynthia Lui's favour ($1.80) with KAP candidate Tanika Parker taking up the tipsters' second position ($3).
Labor's Curtis Pitt in Mulgrave and KAP's Shane Knuth in Hill are expected to hold their seats convincingly with the bookie paying $1.10 and $1.07 respectively.
Originally published as Deputy Premier's last-minute dash to secure ALP support