The chances that Labor might hold Ashgrove at the next election just rose after Campbell Newman’s Australia Day performance in the electorate.
While he handled the predictable photo-op with incumbent Kate Jones appropriately, that seems to be where it stopped, at least on the basis of those segments run by the Channel 7 news this evening.
The mistakes were huge and will echo through the campaign.
Newman promised to pour money into the electorate saying words to the effect that there is a big advantage in having the premier as your member.
While I am sure that there are many electors making just those calculations no-one likes to think that someone else thinks they can buy them, which is the message that Newman was pushing.
At the same time it says that other Queenslanders will be second class under a Newman administration and that while he might be talking-up fiscal responsibility he is prepared to spend whatever it takes.
This will play into perceptions that he is reckless, and has put Brisbane in a situation of untenable debt – a theme which appears in my qualitative research – and undermines his critique of the Labor administration as being financially irresponsible.
So in one fell move he has insulted electors, raised issues of propriety, undermined his own attack on the government and given Labor the television footage to package it all in a neat effective attack ad. Not bad for a few minutes work.
But it gets worse – he undermined his own CanDo brand.
He was asked whether he would doorknock this afternoon. It’s Australia Day, and a holiday, so he could have begged-off with some reasonable excuse, but his response was that it was “a bit warm this afternoon”.
Newman made his name as CanDo Campbell, the energiser bunny of Queensland politics. He contrasted himself to the grey, dour and lackadaisical incumbent Tim Quinn.
Residents would ring up with a pothole problem, Campbell would turn-up with his council team and some hot mix to fix it. When City Hall was contacted for comment they at least once said that Campbell wasn’t allowed to do this because it was in breach of health and safety laws. That summed it all up.
So did the footage this afternoon where Campbell looked a bit like a fat cat all done up in a suit and off home to have a beer with his cronies while his opponent was shown in frock and hat, sweat on brow, knocking on doors in her electorate. Another attack ad.
Newman may have been ambushed on the door knocking issue, and it’s always possible that Kate Jones finished her door knocking just after the cameras left, but he has no excuse for the last error. That was to suggest that Premier Anna Bligh should pay her own ticket for attending Cyclone Yasi commemorations.
It allowed Bligh to draw attention to Newman’s unorthodox position as an opposition leader without a seat – another negative in the qual.
On top of the other gaffes it also looked unreasonable. Newman needs to look like a future premier, not just another whinger.
I think most electors would regard the attendance of the premier at a public function as part of the office, even in an election campaign. That is one of the spoils of office.
The fact that Campbell has to pay for himself is just how the cookie crumbles. The complaint may tend to play into an argument that Newman is taking on airs and taking electors for granted, a necessary plank of the campaign that Labor needs to wage which will centre on making Newman, rather than Bligh, the issue.
If he wants to complain about anything he should keep complaining about the use of government advertising. There is fertile ground there as most people resent government advertising to start with, and there is wide support for the proposition that Bligh should have gone into caretaker mode immediately.
Not a good Australia Day for Newman.