The final Galaxy Queensland election poll released Saturday show the Liberal National Party steadying with a 51-49 lead over Labor on two-party preferred. The two-point margin represents a 5.9 per cent swing to the LNP and would leave them just short of government if this swing is applied uniformly across the state on Saturday. The closeness of the race forced Labor to swallow its pride last week and agree to a preference deal with party defector Ronan Lee in Indooroopilly in exchange for Greens preferences in 14 key seats.
The major parties are now pulling out all the stops as the campaign enters its last week. Bligh and Springborg fought out a leaders’ debate on Friday. In the debate Bligh attacked Springborg's decision to impose a 3 per cent efficiency dividend by not filling public sector job vacancies so that the government would "live within its means". Labor used research from academic John Wanna to show the dividend would impact on front-line services. Springborg, meanwhile, attacked Labor on its health record. “[A]fter 11 years of Labor in Queensland there are 35,000 people in this State that continue to languish on our hospital waiting lists,” he said.
The two major parties formally launched their campaigns yesterday (how do parties, state and federal, get away with this sham of having “launches” at the end of the campaign?). The launches became pork auctions with the LNP promising 10,000 new jobs only for Labor to gazump them with a promise of 100,000. The banal similarities persisted as Kevin Rudd introduced Bligh while Malcolm Turnbull did the honours for Springborg. Just as in the polls, there appeared little difference in the launches.
However, the polls are showing some contradictions. While Bligh still has a commanding lead over Springborg as preferred premier (50 to 36), some analysts are saying she is Labor’s weak link. Writing in the Brisbane Times on Saturday, Cosima Marriner says Bligh has become a liability. Marriner says she has struggled to control the agenda and has been constantly on the backfoot. Similarly in The Australian, Sean Parnell criticised her negativity on matters such as the Moreton Bay oil spill and government cutbacks. “Everything Bligh is saying might be correct,” says Parnell, “but she looks like someone trying to defend the indefensible.”
Pollster Graham Young thinks the problem lies with Bligh’s presentation. He says she comes across as “too harsh, too shallow and too reactive” and Labor’s attack ads are not helping. And there are other smaller signs that Bligh is not a great natural campaigner. Yesterday Ben Grubb at TechWired caught out the Premier's office deleting Twitter updates. When Grubb queried whether Kevin Rudd’s Twitter depiction of the Queensland Opposition as “the other bloke” also included the Greens, the person behind @anna4queensland responded with “they’re certainly not an alternative government” before deleting the offending Tweet.
But regardless of whether Anna or “the other bloke” wins on Saturday, there is a definite sense of gloom in the electorate. Jason Wilson tapped into that mood today as he used the environmental disaster from the MV Pacific Adventurer oil slick as a metaphor for Queensland’s current woes. Wilson says that because its economy that relies on mining and tourism, the state is particularly susceptible to recessions. “Under the circumstances, Queenslanders' apparent lack of interest in this strange, irrelevant, funereal state election campaign is understandable,” he writes. On both sides, as Mark Bahnisch says, the vision is barren.
Luckily there is always the curious adventures of Pauline Hanson to cheer us up. She launched another one of her trademark anti-media attacks today after News Ltd Sunday papers published nude photos yesterday. The Brisbane Sunday Mail claimed the photos were of Hanson when she was 19 years old and they paid $10,000 to obtain them from her boyfriend of that era, a man called Jack Johnston. Today, the would-be Beaudesert MP denied she had ever posed nude and said she had never heard of Johnston. Hanson said she was fighting the charge because the media didn’t check the story with her. "They just got these photos, presumed it was me, made it public, and have embarrassed me greatly and I've had enough,” she said. “I'm just not going to take this anymore.”
Other than noting the irony of Pauline Hanson channelling Peter Finch, I agree she has been treated poorly in this episode. Perhaps worryingly, I find myself agreeing with Andrew Bolt for the second time in three days. While the photos were a clear breach of privacy, the whole brouhaha won’t do Hanson a jot of harm. The more the media harass her, the more she becomes a symbol of resistance for the political underclass.
I’m not sure what it is about the redoubtable Hanson but today she also united Tim Blair and Pure Poison in condemnation of the publication of the photos. The Herald Sun dubiously claimed the 30 year old photos had news value because public people are public property. “[E]very bloody time you stand, Ms Hanson,” shrieked the Herald Sun in unconvincing defence, “we will ask the tough questions.” Who exactly, is kidding who, here?