State election under starters orders

IN 12 months' time official campaigning for the 2020 Queensland election would have kicked off in earnest.

Babies will be being kissed, shopping centres will no longer be safe to walk through unencumbered by candidates and suburban streets will be inundated with corflutes and other political paraphernalia.

The unofficial electioneering would have begun much earlier ahead of October 31st, the first fixed-term poll in our state's history.

Blessedly, this means the banal triennial guessing game over the election date has come to an end.

Incumbent governments will no longer be able to manipulate the timing of elections in an attempt to gain political advantage.

And what will mark the 2020 election as different from all those that came before is that it will herald the beginning of Queensland's first four-year term.

Already, the prospect of four years in power versus four years marooned in the political wilderness of opposition looms large for the major parties.

Brett Lethbridge illustration.
Brett Lethbridge illustration.

It is bringing additional pressure down on Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and LNP Leader Deb Frecklington.

Palaszczuk has already laid claim to underdog status in one of the earliest calls in recent times.

But the task ahead for Frecklington is massive although not insurmountable.

By the time the election rolls around, Palaszczuk would have assumed the mantle as the 10th longest serving premier in Queensland's history, leapfrogging Labor legend Red Ted Theodore and less well liked Vince Gair.

It is testament to her unique brand and common touch that Palaszczuk has lasted so long as Queensland Labor leader at a time when political coups are common.

Meanwhile, Frecklington is aiming to be the first Queensland Premier with a seat outside the southeast corner in three decades.

The last was Russell Cooper and before that Joh Bjelke-Petersen who held Frecklington's seat of Nanango.

Joh Bjelke-Petersen, former premier of Queensland, held the same seat as Deb Frecklington.
Joh Bjelke-Petersen, former premier of Queensland, held the same seat as Deb Frecklington.

The challenge of crossing the city/country divide in Queensland has long been over-estimated by politicians and pundits.

For years there were claims that an urbane southeast corner member was all the conservatives required to win an election.

But this overly simplistic solution was exposed for the nonsense that it always was at the last state election.

Palaszczuk will enter the 2020 poll asking for a third term.

Like any long-serving leader, she'll bring baggage to the table.

Labor's second term has been anything but stellar so far.

Unemployment has barely budged despite the Government's supposed raison d'être being about jobs.

Both budgets have been awash with debt and new taxes and the third won't be any different.

And the Government has not been about to generate any momentum since being pommeled by the integrity crisis that engulfed Deputy Premier Jackie Trad whose glaringly obvious ongoing absence from the public sphere will bring new challenges for the administration.

The Courier-Mail's YouGov poll in late August showed the LNP had edged in front on a two-party preferred basis for the first time since early 2016.

Importantly, it showed Palaszczuk's status as preferred premier and satisfaction with her performance were in freefall.

Labor knows this is a problem because the government's support has always been anchored to Palaszczuk's popularity.

Has Palaszczuk's bubble finally burst?

It's too early to tell.

However, the results didn't earn Frecklington universal approval from her own party either.

There are mutterings about how the LNP should be further ahead and that Frecklington's personal numbers have gone nowhere.

And given Queensland's conservatives are notoriously disloyal towards leaders - they haven't gone a term in Opposition without toppling a leader since 2001 - even Frecklington's status as a frontrunner doesn't mean she is safe.

Her work ethic is prodigious and political tactics solid.

But that four year term ahead means there are fears among some LNP MPs that they will spend their entire public life in opposition.

Just 1.2 per cent on a two-party preferred basis split the major parties in 2017.

Labor governs with a majority of just two.

However, LNP still needs to win nine more seats than it has right now in order to govern in its own right.

And Labor's most vulnerable electorates are spread from the Gold Coast to Cairns.

Palaszczuk must hold what she has already.

And that won't be easy with a deeply unpopular deputy who is in a titanic struggle to win her own seat.

But Frecklington's task is much tougher given the LNP has bugger all seats in Brisbane and is near non-existent in the north.

Much will depend on Pauline Hanson.

Senator Pauline Hanson at Parliament House in Canberra.
Senator Pauline Hanson at Parliament House in Canberra.

The firebrand's party won a seat and finished second in 20 others two years ago.

Perhaps more important was Hanson's policy of preferencing against sitting members which effectively won Labor the last election.

Where One Nation runs, the number of seats it contests and how it allocates preferences will be crucial.

Palaszczuk and Frecklington would have already mapped out the months ahead and started planning their campaigns.

With just a year to go, the unofficial election has really already begun.




LIKE many Brisbane commuters, I was ambivalent about the Extinction Rebellion's merry band of protesters when they first kicked off their campaign.

I thought little about the criticisms of the movement because it all came from the usual rabble rousers who are dead keen to denounce anything done in the name of climate change.

Activists participate in an Extinction Rebellion protest outside 1 William Street. Picture: Albert Perez
Activists participate in an Extinction Rebellion protest outside 1 William Street. Picture: Albert Perez

As I watched from a coffee shop as the first protesters were peeled from Queen Street, I marvelled at their commitment to the cause.

It made me think about how as country we've proven thoroughly incapable of coming up with a plan to reduce emissions.

However, like so many others, I am now fed up with my commute getting constantly delayed.

This is not about climate change any more.

It's simply a bunch of people on an ego trip.

Surely enough is enough? Surely a city can't constantly be interrupted by a small group who see themselves as morally superior to everyone else?

The Palaszczuk Government is desperately trying to appear like it's doing something while not doing much.

It made a song and dance this week about how it will shave a few weeks from its plan to bring in new laws to make the dangerous devices used by some protesters illegal.

A few weeks? So what?

Do authorities really believe new search and seize powers to stop the use of these devices will stop the protesters?

Talk about naive.

Activists participate in an Extinction Rebellion protest outside 1 William Street. Picture: Albert Perez
Activists participate in an Extinction Rebellion protest outside 1 William Street. Picture: Albert Perez

Nothing the Government has done will stop the commuter chaos because in truth its conflicted on the question of whether jailing protesters is appropriate.

However, surely the wrist slapping that's being going on in the courts is out of step with community sentiment?

Surely there's scope to get tougher, particularly on repeat offenders?

This isn't about climate change.

This is disruptive. This is costly. And it needs to end.


GOOD WEEK: Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington who continues to make the Government dance to her tune about air-conditioning more schools.

BAD WEEK: Annastacia Palaszczuk who had to get around in a moon boot after a slip on the Gold Coast last weekend left her with a fractured foot.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk with her broken foot.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk with her broken foot.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "We wish her (Palaszczuk) well in her recovery, not too well in that she becomes really, really bouncing because we've got an election coming up in a year's time but we do wish her well," LNP Senate James McGrath.

Senator James McGrath.
Senator James McGrath.