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All eyes on Bligh-Newman showdown

By Scott Prasser - posted Tuesday, 10 January 2012


The forthcoming Queensland election due by March is more than just a test of 23 years of almost unbroken Labor rule in Queensland.

If the newly amalgamated Liberal National Party, no longer a coalition between the National and Liberal parties, wins the election it will be a watershed for state and national politics.

Its impact will be as important as when the Bjelke-Petersen Coalition government reduced Labor to a mere 11 seats at the 1974 state poll, which heralded the beginning of the end of the Whitlam federal Labor government.

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The election represents a test for all the key players.

First and foremost, it is a test of Anna Bligh, who succeeded Peter Beattie as premier in 2007. Since then and with her premiership confirmed by the easy win at the 2009 election, it has been a Bligh-dominated government.

Bligh has done it her way. Ministers, with a couple of exceptions, hardly get a look in. It is Bligh who attends the funerals, manages the disasters and speaks across all portfolios. Following the recent Department of Health fraud issue, it was Bligh, not the Health Minister who took the running.

If Labor falls in Queensland, then Bligh must shoulder full responsibility. If Labor hangs on, then Bligh can take the credit.

Of course, a loss will have greater personal impact for Premier Bligh than other defeated Labor leaders. It would mean the end of a career almost solely based in politics.

Bligh represents that new phenomenon in Australian politics, the professional careerist politician. Bligh's options will be more limited than her predecessor Beattie, who took an overseas Queensland posting.

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There will be no sympathetic Queensland government to send her overseas and the hard-pressed Gillard government could hardly oblige.

Perhaps a position at one of Queensland's sympathetic universities would suffice.

For Labor nationally, another state domino to fall following losses in Western Australia (2008), Victoria (2010) and NSW (2011) reinforces the view that the Labor brand is tarnished and under serious threat.

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This article was first published in The Australian on January 6, 2012.



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About the Author

Scott Prasser is Professor of Public Policy and was Executive Director of the Public Policy Institute at the Australian Catholic University. Scott has worked previously in senior policy and research roles in federal and state governments and in several universities in Victoria, NSW and Queensland. Recently, Scott co-edited with Associate Professor Nicholas Aroney and J.R. Nethercote the book Restraining Elective Dictatorship: The Upper House Solution? He has just written with Helen Tracey a report entitled Beyond Gonski: Reviewing the Evidence on Quality Schooling.

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