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Friday, 30th January 2015

QUEENSLAND IS DIFFERENT

Premier Campbell Newman and opposition leader Annastacia Palaszczuk are in the midst of their final day of campaigning before tomorrow's state election in Queensland. When Queenslanders last voted, not quite three years ago, they dumped the nearly-14-year-old Labor government led by Anna Bligh in the most emphatic way imaginable. In a mammoth swing of over 15%, Labor was reduced to just seven seats out of 89 in the single-chamber parliament. It was the worst defeat of a sitting government in Queensland's history, and the majority won by the newly-amalgamated Liberal National Party was not just its first, but also the largest in the state's history. It was the first election win by a party other than Labor in Queensland since 1986.

Queensland is different, observers explained. To emphasise that truism, Campbell Newman, formerly Brisbane's Lord Mayor, became premier after leading the opposition from outside the parliament. Commentators speculated that it would take a generation for Labor to return to office, and there was a chance they never would. It didn't take long for the correction to begin. As a result of by-elections the LNP has already lost five seats (and Labor has won two of these). The latest statewide poll has the LNP and Labor at neck-and-neck; if the swing were uniform, that would produce an ALP majority. Newman himself looks like losing his seat of Ashgrove, though because it's Queensland, there's speculation he'll continue to lead the state anyway.

There are big questions about Newman's governance, especially regarding the approval of major coal projects. Tony Fitzgerald QC – the man whose name is synonymous with anti-corruption – thinks the state has slipped too far back to the bad old days of the Bjelke-Petersen regime. It's likely, however, that voters' disapproval of Newman's LNP has more to do with his failure to get the state's economy back on track despite his slash-and-burn austerity. It's likely that Tony Abbott's unpopularity is playing a role as well. Still, tomorrow's result could be as extraordinary as that in 2012, even if the LNP does, as expected, just hang on.

Russell Marks
Politicoz Editor

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Leadership speculation

Phillip Coorey in the AFR: "Tony Abbott has until the second half of this year to turn around the government’s fortunes or risk losing his job, his colleagues say."

Anna Henderson at ABC News: "Today Joe Hockey said the Coalition risked repeating the mistakes made by the Labor caucus under the previous government."

Dan Harrison and Latika Bourke in Fairfax: "Punters believe it is more likely than not Prime Minister Tony Abbott will face a leadership ballot before the next election."

Annabel Crabb at The Drum: "There is something boyishly rebellious about the way this prime minister avoids advice. It's not that he forgets to seek it, it's that he actively evades it."

Predict how long Abbott will hold on and WIN CASH from The Monthly!

A Credlin defence

Latika Bourke in Fairfax: "Clive Palmer says he regrets once attacking Peta Credlin and has told media baron Rupert Murdoch to lay off from ‘personally’ attacking Prime Minister Tony Abbott's chief of staff."

James Massola in Fairfax: "Opposition leader Bill Shorten has launched an extraordinary defence of Tony Abbott's chief of staff, Peta Credlin, declaring the prime minister should be held accountable for his own mistakes."

Queensland

Analysis by Mark Bahnisch at The Monthly: "A week that began with the roar of Greeks rejecting austerity politics may indeed end with an echo across Australia. How faint or how loud that echo will be is the question."

Michael McKenna in The Australian: "It’s the question no one in the Liberal National Party will answer, at least publicly. What happens if the government is re-elected without Campbell Newman?"

Greg Jericho at Guardian Australia: The Queensland election as a fascinating study in the cost of austerity politics.

Todd Winther at The Conversation: Ten things to watch on and after election night

Human rights

Debra Killalea at News.com.au: "Australia has been named and shamed on a list of the world’s worst human rights offenders – but it’s not just our treatment of Indigenous people and asylum seekers that has landed us there."

Jane McAdam in Fairfax: "The High Court decision on the detention of Tamil asylum seekers at sea turned on a technical reading of statutory provisions, not an assessment of Australia's international refugee and human rights obligations."

Ben Doherty at Guardian Australia: "The High Court has questioned Australia’s right to ‘turn back’ boats, raising the prospect of further legal challenges to a key plank of Australia’s offshore asylum policies."

The IR debate

Thom Mitchell and Chris Graham at New Matilda: "The CFMEU has forced the federal government to investigate claims foreign workers at an ethanol plant on the NSW South Coast have been working up to seven days a week for as little as $4 an hour, while living in ‘cramped and degrading conditions’."

Thom Mitchell at New Matilda: "A dispute over pay and conditions at a Dandenong factory in Melbourne’s south-east entered its third day today, with workers hoping a second day of Fair Work hearings will bring the row to a close."

Stephen Koukoulas at The Drum: "The Institute of Public Affairs' Chris Berg reckons set minimum wages are ‘creating a poverty trap’. This is not correct."