In the past few weeks I have not touched at all on the Queensland state election, deferring instead in authority (and proximity!) to folks like Mark Bahnisch and Possum over at Crikey. Since the election result, however, I have found myself wondering a little bit about what it all might mean. On the one hand, at least from where I am sitting well south of the border (with NSW let alone Queensland), Lawrence Springborg seemed a more credible Opposition Leader than Ted Bailileu and certainly a candidate more likely to lead his party to victory than Peter Debnam, the last failed Opposition Leader in New South Wales. Anna Bligh’s government did seem a little vulnerable, and Bligh did not at all times seem comfortable and in control as Premier since Peter Beattie’s resignation.
In any case, here I think are the key outcomes worth pondering:
- Anna Bligh’s victory represents a victory also for Peter Beattie and the matter in which he handled his transition out of state politics. In transitioning to Bligh, I do believe that Beattie has proven himself to have done a better job at managing the transition than Bob Carr in New South Wales. Personally, I thought Beattie still had some juice in the tank when he resigned. One wonders whether he will now turn his eye to federal politics now that his exit from Queensland politics has been vindicated by the voters?
- Phillip Coorey suggests a bit cheekily for SMH that even Nathan Rees should hold out some hope for victory in 2011 after Anna Bligh’s result. Unfortunately it’s only a throwaway line. Queensland and New South Wales are not necessarily on the similar trajectories they might seem to be after the departures of Messrs Beattie and Carr. Rees is currently not commanding the authority he needs to as leader in order to be a real chance at the next poll.
- Was there a “Rudd effect” at play? How many votes is Kevin09 worth at a state level?
- Is the shambling hybrid Liberal National Party, having lost a supposedly unlosable election, ready to fall back apart into its rotting constituent pieces once again?
- Pauline Hanson’s defeat yet again – this time in the seat of Beaudesert – will hopefully signal the end of her political career. In a democratic sense I do think that there might be a need out there for someone with an approximation of her views to be represented, but I don’t think she is the right person, in more ways than one. Her treatment at the hands of the media over the past few weeks should nevertheless serve to further galvanise support for people with anti-elitist, anti-city political views.
- Ronan Lee’s defeat in the seat of Indooroopilly calls into question the value of his defection to the Greens and whether this was tactically the right thing to do for him, based upon his views. Could he have done more for his supporters as a member of the Queensland Labor party room lead by a Premier with a fresh mandate?
- Now that Anna Bligh has stepped out from under Peter Beattie’s shadow, what kind of leader will she be? Will she do better than Morris Iemma did after his post-handover election victory?
If we needed any more proof that NSW Labor has struggled to take a trick over the past couple of years, the amazingly short tenure of Matt Brown as NSW Police Minister has provided it. Freshly minted Premier Nathan Rees had more than enough on his plate already (indeed – probably enough for a few lifetimes), and the last thing he needed was the silly and needless scandal that has erupted over the last few days.
Politics is a tough business, and I don’t think anybody reasonable would begrudge Matt Brown or any politician from letting off some steam from time to time. Unfortunately, we live in a political age when the media and political operatives (in this case, Imre Salusinszky from The Australian) across the country are remorselessly on the hunt for “news” that can be construed in any way as controversial. Brown should have been aware of this, and should have put his noggin to good use instead of acting the way that he allegedly did during his post-Budget party.
Rees, of course, made the right decision in presumably forcing Brown to resign from his post. One wonders whether the Premier should demand an even more stringent level of disclosure, given the abysmal track record NSW Labor has had with regards to resignations and embarrassing incidents over the past decade in power. Perhaps the new Premier should force any member of parliament who is implicated in a scandal that breaks before he hears about it to resign not only from any ministerial duties but from parliament altogether, forcing a by-election.
In New South Wales in particular, the Labor Party desperately needs a public image overhaul. It can simply not afford to endure any further absurd scandals of this nature; it’s time for the Premier to lay down the law to his colleagues.
Comparisons have already been drawn by some commentators between the elevation of Morris Iemma to the premiership of New South Wales in August 2005 and the unexpected rise of Nathan Rees to the same position this week. If anything though, it is arguable that the rise of Rees has been even less of a rational leadership transition than that of his predecessor. Prior to his gaining the premiership, Morris Iemma did have nearing fifteen years of parliamentary experience behind him, including a relatively high profile stint in the Health portfolio. Rees, by comparison, has served less than two years in parliament and despite the touch of (welcome!) colour in his early job history, he can certainly be regarded as an apparatchik premier. For the majority of the last fifteen years he has worked as a political staffer.
The Murdoch press (as expected) is running a typically unreasonable line about the emergence of Rees which seems to imply that New South Wales will soon explode in a ball of uncontrollable flames. Realistically the only reasonable perspective, of course, is to welcome the departure of Iemma, Costa and Watkins as the breath of fresh air that it represents, and to wait and see if the new leadership team cuts the mustard. Given that they have had only a couple of days in the job, any more aggressive attacks on the Rees/Tebbutt team can be dismissed as the vainglorious acts of political expediency that they are.
Given that I know about as much about Nathan Rees as the average person (e.g. nothing), I thought it might be worth while having a bit of a look through his contributions to the Hansard over the last couple of years to try and get a feel for where he stands. There are a few excerpts and thoughts over the fold.