Stafford wipe-out dooms Newman

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The Redcliffe and Stafford by-election wipeouts mean the Newman Government is now doomed to be a one-term Government, writes Steve Bishop.

FOLLOWING THE LNP's drubbing in Stafford, it seems Queensland faces a repeat of the 1998 election, when voters decided there was a pox on both the National-Liberal and Labor houses.

In 1998, the first-term National-Liberal Government led by Rob Borbidge had vexed many voters by interfering with the independent corruption watchdog, ignoring parliamentary convention and creating scandal after scandal — starting with a secret deal with the Police Union.

But it was too soon after the demise of the Goss Government for a majority to forgive Labor and vote them back into power.

How could people register their frustration that they believed neither of the two major political machines could deliver the sort of government they wanted?

Pauline Hanson, with her policies of hate, envy and simplistic solutions emerged from deserved obscurity in 1998 to take 23 per cent of the vote and win 11 seats. The despised National-Liberal Coalition lost 12 seats — leaving them with 32 of the 89 seats. And Labor, despite having presented voters with a range of detailed policies, fell one short of being able to form government by itself.

Eventually, the ALP formed a minority government with the backing of the then newly elected Independent MP Peter Wellington.

In 2015, it seems logical to suggest it will be the Palmer United Party and Katter's Australian Party which are likely to reap the returns of disillusioned voters. Whether this results in another minority government or whether the ALP can garner sufficient votes to govern in its own right depends on the strength and credibility of Labor's policies, its candidates and its leadership.

What seems almost beyond doubt is that the LNP will become another one-term government.

When governments are on the nose they can recover public confidence if they act quickly and determinedly to rectify the problems which have occurred. If they fail to do this and continue to make major errors of judgement, they reach a tipping point beyond which they cannot recover. 

The Redcliffe and Stafford by-election wipeouts mean the Newman Government, like the Bligh Government before it, is now doomed whatever escape routes it tries. Premier Newman lost even more credibility when, instead of admitting the appalling result at Stafford was due to government mistakes, he sought to blame former LNP MP Chris Davis.

The fact that many people regard Dr Davis as being a man of principle for resigning rather than supporting policies and behaviour he saw as objectionable suggests Mr Newman will continue to antagonise voters.

Premier Newman will call all his senior advisors together in the Executive Building this week to try to convince them that they can still win the next election. It has been reported that he will soon announce he is backing away from some of his more unpopular policies.

The most astute of them will already be updating their CVs ready to find new jobs as soon as possible. They will not want to be among a couple of hundred advisors all competing at the same time for a limited number of jobs in other states when the LNP crashes out of government.

And losing these key players will make it even more difficult for the Newman Government to make sensible decisions and sell its messages in the build-up to the election.

Read more by Steve Bishop on his blog stevebishop.net.

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