Monday, March 02, 2009

Queensland election 2009: turning sublimely ridiculous

“I’ll give her a bit of curry” will probably go down as the most memorable quote of this Queensland election. Was the speaker, former bad-boy Australian rules footballer Warwick Capper, offering his fellow Beaudesert candidate Pauline Hanson an Indian meal? Because I’d never heard the phrase in 20 years of living in Australia I was forced to look it up. I suspected it was unlikely that Capper intended the delicious irony of offering the former One Nation leader a pungent Asian dish flavoured with various spices or curry powder but I was unaware it was Australian idiom meaning rebuking, disciplining, criticising or harassing. So now I know. It could be argued that Lawrence Springborg has been giving Anna Bligh a fair bit of curry this last week.

But maybe Capper did have the food meaning after all. He also offered Hanson a cook-off between Hanson’s former fish and chip shop and his soon-to-be latte sipper’s “Warwick Cappuccino” coffee shop in Surfer’s. While Warwick may have been talking through his Capper, even he realised elections weren’t all beer and skittles. "Politics is a bit of a joke and I'm the king of the jokers,” he said today, “but I think we do have to get a bit serious sometimes.'' Indeed Warwick we do, but with both him and Hanson looking to cash in with PR man Max Markson and an LNP candidate arrested for a Big Brother protest, that leaves Labor's former soldier Brett McCreadie and scientist Andy Grodecki of the Greens looking decidedly dull on the Beaudesert campaign trail.

I doubt it was Beaudesert Lyn Calcutt had in mind when she said the election made Queensland the “Temporarily Interesting and Experimental State”. But the charge does have a serious ring of truth about it. Queensland's election is attracting a lot more national interest than the similar looking election in WA last year. Calcutt also pointed to Crikey’s election site “Pineapple Party Time” (shame about the name) which uses the prodigious talents of Queenslanders Mark Bahnisch and Scott Steel and WA's William Bowe (and a dash of Victorian cartooning from First Dog on the Moon) to easily provide the best and most comprehensive media commentary on the election.

And while the revolution might not be televised, this election is being Twittered. The hash tag #QldElection09 has the latest goods on many useful links as well as quick-fire commentary. The stream was one of the first media to highlight Bligh’s latest attack ad which compared Springborg’s rebuttal of the strength of the GFC with the statements of Obama and Gordon Brown. But apart from the danger that Labor's campaign is too negative, the ad probably won't resonate with potential LNP supporters who don’t admire Obama and Brown in the first place.

ABC Stateline Queensland is proving another useful media resource. Friday’s program had a first week campaign diary, an interview with Springborg, a report on the Greens and One Nation and the centrepiece, a debate between Treasurer Andrew Fraser and my local MP and Opposition Finance spokesman Tim Nicholls. Fraser channelled Courier-Mail sub-editors as he repeatedly asked Nicholls “where is the money coming from” to fund the LNP multi-billion dollar promises “not Santa Claus?” he asked hopefully.

But it does not look like Santa Claus will be bringing any presents to Queensland soon, particularly its troubled mining sector. Today another 650 jobs were lost in Mackay when Anglo Coal scaled down works at Moranbah North and the Capcoal complex in Middlemount. The news followed one thousand job losses at BHP’s metallurgical coal operations across the state, and another 400 lost at their Yabulu nickel plant near Townsville. Rio Tinto, Xstrata and Macarthur Coal have also shed thousands of jobs.

Queensland Resources Council chief Michael Roche warned both major parties that the industry was in big trouble. “[They] need to understand that this goose is done,” he said. But Ronan Lee will be hoping a done goose can still lays green eggs. The former Labor man threw a fair bit of curry out as he called the Greens a coherent alternative to a disappointing Labor government and an opposition with a history of environmental barbarism. "We have the policies to place the Queensland economy on a 21st century footing,” says Lee. “So that we are not so dependent on the mining sector and to promote green jobs everywhere."

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