August 21, 2005 | Graham

Two significant victories

The Queensland Liberal Party has had two significant victories in the Redcliffe and Chatsworth by-elections. With swings in Redcliffe of around 7% and 12% in Chatsworth voters have told Premier Beattie to fix the health system. They have also put in place the first building blocks of a decent opposition.
The Liberal Party has increased its parliamentary membership by 40%. Sounds good, but it’s sobering to think they could do that by winning only two seats! However, these aren’t just any two seats. These are seats that the Liberal Party could not manage to win in 1995, the last time that they were in government in Queensland. So, in a sense, they now have a head-start on the 1995 opening position.
However, before the 1995 state election they had 9 seats, meaning there were four seats that they held then which they do not hold now – Clayfield, Indooroopilly, Kawana and Aspley. While Lawrence Springborg is talking up the chances of a non-Labor win at the next election, that is unlikely. What the next election should be about is building a credible position from which to strike for government. That means that the Liberal Party needs to win those 4 seats, and preferably some others as well.
One way of doing that is to put capable candidates in place. Undoubtedly one of the reasons there was a larger swing in Chatsworth than in Redcliffe was the calibre of Michael Caltabiano. That is a calibre that is recognised by his factional enemies, as well as his friends. The same generosity of spirit needs to be shown in other preselections around the state to ensure that the best candidates are selected, irrespective of who they align with.
Another reason the swing was larger in Chatsworth was that Terry Mackenroth’s personal vote was higher than that of Ray Hollis. There was a generic swing to the Liberal Party of around 5 percent, making the rest the combination of individual candidate efforts and erosion of the extra margin provided by a personal vote. So while Caltabiano was worth something, it was probably only in the vicinity of a percent or two – crucial but not overwhelming.
Which points to another necessity. The Liberal Party has to maintain its wins. History is replete with candidates who have experienced big by-election wins only to be ousted in subsequent elections as the electorate snaps back to type. These seats will need to be nurtured to be retained.
How these by-elections play out on the larger canvass of state elections will be interesting. Evidence from the day suggests that Peter Beattie has some real public relations problems. People have switched off his style and were ignoring him as he walked around campaigning. Beattie needs to reinvent himself. That’s not impossible, but the approach he has run since 2001 will probably not work in the future. Saying you’re sorry and promising to fix problems is a good strategy, as long as you actually do fix problems and change things.
Peter needs to withdraw himself from the media almost entirely. He’s done this well thus far on effervesence, but survival requires not just some humility, but some sobriety. If he can keep his face of the TV screens, voters may have some faith that he is actually off somewhere, doing the job. Ultimately, actions speak louder than words.

Posted by Graham at 6:11 pm | Comments (1) |
Filed under: Australian Politics

1 Comment

  1. Flip Flops, Queensland Style

    A couple of prominent Queensland populist pollies have had trouble making up their minds lately. In the wake of two by-election defeats, and the Supreme Court finding that the inquiry into the health system was tainted because of ostensible bias shown…

    Comment by Larvatus Prodeo — September 12, 2005 @ 8:53 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.