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Tilting at George Street

By Graham Young - posted Monday, 28 March 2011


Campbell Newman's grab for the Queensland premiership is unorthodox and risky.

To succeed he has to get into parliament, which he will attempt by trying to win the seat of Ashgrove, held by Labor by 7%. He then has to best Premier Anna Bligh while still not an MP, and at the same time the LNP would hope to retain the Brisbane City Council without Newman as mayor.

All this is just possible.

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Until the Brisbane floods Bligh seemed terminally unpopular. Her flood performance restored her status. But she was not the only one to get a flood boost. Our January polling showed an even more positive effect for Newman.

Earlier this week we polled 607 Queenslanders and 57% approved of Newman compared to only 34% for Bligh. His personal favourable opinion rating was 58% and hers only 33%.

What's more there was a swing away from Labor of 9% since the last election – enough to secure Newman the seat he needs as well as a huge parliamentary majority.

Is this just the announcement effect? Will voters change their mind over time? They might.

The most important issue in voters' minds is repairing and extending infrastructure. They're also concerned with health, water and transport, as well as the cost of living.

An engineer who has managed to complete multi-billion dollar municipal capital works ahead of schedule and under budget would appear to have a head start. Especially against a premier who is selling state-owned assets to pay for government operating costs, and whose administration is so incompetent they can't even manage their health payroll.

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Not necessarily. One reason voters hesitate to vote for Newman is a perception he is obsessed with tunnels and that these tunnels will be financial failures leaving the council saddled with debt for generations.

Which means the contest will probably be decided by other factors, such as whether Newman can restore the credibility of the LNP so that voters wanting a better deal see them as a lower risk than the government.

This probably comes down to presentational skills and providing an achievable alternative vision for the state.

Seven years ago Newman branded himself "Can Do Campbell" and bounced an incumbent Lord Mayor from office. That moniker, his restless energy, and to a certain extent the Quixotic daring of his quest may well be what gets him over the line and buries yet another Labor incumbent.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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