August 17, 2006 | Graham

Opposition ‘duumbirate’ becomes ‘triumbirate’

Bruce Flegg’s “gaffe” about who would lead a Coalition government is not accidental – believe it or not it appears to be part of the coalition’s strategy. What wasn’t part of the coalition’s strategy was that “Would-be Caesar”, Michael Caltabiano, would use the opportunity it presented to undermine his newly elected leader to add civil war on top of the official electoral war in which the coalition is engaged.
The commonsense, and actual, position on leadership is that, in the now inconceivable case, that the Opposition parties were to win government, whichever party had the largest number of MPs would be the Premier. Bruce Flegg had no problems saying that to Brisbane’s Sunday Mail last weekend in an article entitled “I’m ready to lead state, says Flegg”. The reason he backed away from that on Monday appears to be that the National Party went ballistic (analogously to the way that, say, Hezbollah might go ballistic).
They did this for two possible reasons. The first is that they genuinely appear to think that that even if the Liberal Party had more members of parliament than them that they should still run the coalition – shades of the now long-interred gerrymander. The second is that they plan to run a presidential campaign based around Springborg, and this wouldn’t work if they admitted he might not be the leader in the event of a win.
So Flegg unwisely tried to find a form of words that would keep them happy. It didn’t keep anyone else happy and now Michael Caltabiano has traded on this dissatisfaction to create a story in this morning’s Courier Mail which has the headline “Revolt over who’s the boss.”
Caltabiano is presumably audaciously aiming at Flegg’s job, but in a sign of the almost unanimous incompetence of the coalition frontline, his intervention could well cost him his seat. Caltabiano won Chatsworth with a 17 percent swing, generated in part by low voter turnout, to give him a meagre 2.5 percent margin, which could easily vanish without the special circumstances surrounding a byelection. One of the reasons that Flegg challenged Quinn was the fear that under Quinn the Liberals were heading for a train wreck that would see them lose Chatsworth as well as Redcliffe and possibly Currumbin.
Caltabiano supported the challenge, but according to one of his financial backers, David Kemp, didn’t want to be seen to be involved, so wasn’t actually in the party-room at the time the vote was taken. There’s no squeamishness about visibility this morning.
All of which makes it even easier for Beattie to continue his line of attack that the coalition is a “rabble” and can’t even work out who will be leader after the election as he now has three possible names to choose from.
Many think that Peter Beattie is probably the worst premier the state has ever had. That’s why, at a subliminal and psychological level Beattie’s pitch can be summed up as “I might be bad, but it could be worse…” Who would have thought that the Coalition would be improvising from that script as well this early in the campaign?

Posted by Graham at 5:31 am | Comments (6) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. Yes, the entire Coalition campaign looks very undisciplined. They have dropped the ball early it the sad part is that all the great Liberal candidates will suffer due to the selfishness of the few at the top.
    I personally believe they should have played the leadership issue with a straight bat and stated from the outset exactly what the Coalition agreement said.

    Comment by R — August 17, 2006 @ 11:26 am

  2. “Many think that Peter Beattie is probably the worst premier the state has ever had”
    Please. Qld has had R Cooper, Joh BP and V Gair just to name a few.
    While comparisons are odious, compared to the above, Beattie does rather well.

    Comment by wpd — August 17, 2006 @ 8:49 pm

  3. I’ve seen enough Qld elections to know that Beattie was the media’s darling until he ‘came out’ and made it clear three years ago that he was not going to break his election promise on daylight saving during his term of office.
    From that point on, Beattie mysteriously went from doing everything ‘right’ in the media’s eyes, to doing everything ‘wrong’.
    Despite the fact that the introduction of daylight saving to a state with Queensland’s latitude and longitude would be plain stupid, the summertime status quo remains a major loss of face for the powerful SE Qld business community.
    It doesn’t look good to bring down a government over daylight saving. However, it’s perfectly acceptable to bring down a government over ‘noble’ issues like health and water.

    Comment by JL — August 18, 2006 @ 10:04 am

  4. “Many think that Peter Beattie is probably the worst premier the state has ever had”
    A completely meaningless and fatuous statement.
    A different “many” would rate Beattie pretty well. That’s the nature of party politics.
    I would suggest that the biggest “many” would, without hesitation, rate the venal, corrupt and downright spiteful Bejelke-Petersen as by far and away our worst ever Premier.
    Some of the highly authoritarian 1930-50s Labor premiers and Russell Cooper (“Joh without the funny bits”) would rate pretty lowly as well.
    Beattie might have some significant problems to sort out, but yes, the Flegg/Springborg rabble would indeed be worse – they are a policy “black hole”.

    Comment by Clive Griffin — August 20, 2006 @ 10:02 pm

  5. I think that the many are making their judgement on the basis of performance. Name me a Premier who has actually managed to reduce hospital beds over his term in office? Or run the state capital into level 4 water restrictions?

    Comment by Graham Young — August 20, 2006 @ 10:17 pm

  6. Before Beattie came in, QLD had specialists and did not have a major health crises. Now we have doctors who refuse to work for Beattie, we are losing our ambulances, emergency departments, labour wards, the list goes on and on and on.
    I am no rabid Nationals supporter. I am someone who recognises that under the Nat’s, infrastructure was built by Joh, maintained by Nat’s that followed then destroyed with a wrecking ball by Beattie.
    We have seen Beattie now Deputy Dog, take alcohol into an alcohol exclusion zone, give immunity to a person who enticed violence against police, has told votes to piss off, etc.
    If Beattie is returned handsomely, so is his corrupt governments behaviour.

    Comment by Spider — August 21, 2006 @ 9:18 pm

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