On most counts, since Queensland’s faux election campaign began Campbell Newman has yet to win a day, but yesterday was different courtesy of an own goal from the Queensland Premier when she claimed that he would be going to jail.
The reason Newman has yet to win a day is partly due to the fact that almost every other day the Courier Mail has a headline highlighting the activities of members of his wife’s family.
He’s been in public relations hell, which must seem a lot worse than being in jail at the moment, but the premier’s comments have given him a get out of jail card.
In an extraordinary scene in parliament Premier Anna Bligh compared Campbell Newman to her former cabinet colleague Gordon Nuttall currently in jail for official corruption and predicted that Newman would end up in jail as well.
This has got to be a smear too far.
Despite saying in July last year “I can give this guarantee: I won’t be at any stage insulting or criticising any member of Mr Newman’s family” the first stage of the campaign has been dominated by exactly that, even though there is no evidence that any of Mr Newman’s in-laws have committed any crimes or breached any laws.
The latest is that the FBI is apparently investigating a company associated with his brother-in-law Seb Monsour, although the investigation has not included actually talking to anyone in the company, which must make it low level at this stage.
It has all been smear and innuendo based on no more than the fact that they own property and businesses and have on occasion made money.
But Bligh’s position is far from strong.
First there is Gordon Nuttall. If in-law’s count as proof of Newman’s “corruption” then why shouldn’t former cabinet colleagues point to the Premier’s
Then there is Bligh’s husband, Greg Withers. Not only has he been appointed to high ranking public service positions such that the premier’s family income approaches half-a-million dollars a year between them, but he’s just had his contract renewed for another 5 years. That will mean a $1.1 million dollar payout in the event that Labor loses the next election, which the premier clearly expects that they will!
This is money that will all go to benefit the premier’s household budget.
She may say that these appointments were made at arms length, but how arms length couldn’t any appointment like this really be when the interviewee is the Premier’s spouse. You wouldn’t have to say anything for the interviewing panel to know what was expected.
Then there is Tony Morris QC’s careful documentation of the 19 jobs advertised earlier this year by Queensland Health for positions most probably destined to be retired or abolished by the next government. This is classic behaviour by a soon-to-be-defeated government where jobs are filled close to the election to either leave Trojan horses for the incoming government or pay-off favourites who will be made redundant more swiftly than they were employed.
Scuttlebutt around town is that Queensland Health’s appointments are the tip of the ice berg.
When it comes to corruption the public believes that both sides are in on it. The biggest problem for Newman is probably not the allegations but the fact that every day he has to respond to an allegation is a day that he doesn’t get to talk about his agenda.
And when it comes to allegations of corruption a general rule is that they shouldn’t be too shrill.
You can get away with smearing as long as the allegations are factual. A flight of fancy without any concrete evidence to back it up does more damage to the premier than it does to Newman and confirms what everyone basically knows – she’s sure she’s lost the next election.