February 28, 2005 | Graham

Can do canal – should Colin Barnett blame Campbell Newman?

I’ve been wondering about Colin Barnett’s canal. Could it be that he elevated the idea from Campbell Newman’s campaign for Lord Mayor of Brisbane. Afterall, the last time anyone beat Labor anywhere significant apart from Canberra, was the Brisbane City Council elections last year.
If they did it was a huge mistake. Campbell Newman won the BCC Lord Mayoralty despite, not because of, his tunnels. The months leading up to the election were dominated by giant billboards on all the main traffic routes of a stern, arm-crossed Newman saying “Gridlock, I won’t stand for it.” The professional advice was that promising to eliminate traffic jams was like promising world peace. Indeed, some of us remembered at least one of these high profile locations – the Normanby Fiveways – when not only did it have traffic jams, but a policeman in a pith helmet used to direct traffic to ease the pain. My 92 year old father remembers the traffic jams into the CBD in the ’20s.
Newman changed the posters, and barely mentioned the tunnels in the election. What he did do was roll his sleeves up and get out there every day demonstrating some issue where Labor had failed to perform. Labor had been in power for 13 years, Tim Quinn, the incumbent, had inherited office 12 months before from Jim Soorley, but even by the time of the election, a large body of voters still hadn’t formed an impression of him. Newman painted in the detail – Quinn’s not a bad bloke, but he doesn’t want the job badly enough.
Newman didn’t just assert that he was decisive, he demonstrated it, but not through extravagant gestures, but by looking after the bread and butter things like potholes and unmown footpaths.
Our research into elections since 2001 has shown one thing consistently. The larger the promise, the less likely it is to be believed. In the last NSW election, John Brogden ran in some northern suburbs on the basis of a tunnel linking Manly to the CBD. It was one reason for the Liberals’ dismal showing on the northshore.
Now that Newman is Lord Mayor, the tunnels are a good issue for him. With some control over the purse strings he can use them to demonstrate performance. Not only did he sign-off yesterday on an agreement with the State Government to finance the first one under the Brisbane River, but last week he gained Labor Opposition agreement to go ahead with another linking to the airport. Newmann is set to be one of Brisbane’s legendary Lord Mayors.
Perth is a longway from Brisbane. What a pity for Barnett if my surmise is true – that the only part of the BCC campaign that could be viewed from that distance, were the tunnels – and that he borrowed the idea, thinking it might work for him. Even worse would be if Geoff Gallop does the feasibilities and signs off on a canal afterall! John Moore, the former Defence Minister, used to make a distinction between policies for government and policies for opposition. Tunnels and canals are certainly only policies for government.

Posted by Graham at 11:13 am | Comments Off on Can do canal – should Colin Barnett blame Campbell Newman? |
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