I’m borrowing one of the Brisbane Times‘ commenters’ bon mots again to encapsulate the latest twist in the endless weirdness that is Pineapple Party politics in Queensland.
Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman has announced that he wants to be LNP leader, but the party machine has been unable to elbow out any of the sitting state MPs to force a by-election. So apparently he’s going to contest the seat of Ashgrove at the election, but offer himself as leader when he wins pre-selection.
How does this make any sense?
The leadership of the opposition is a Parliamentary position. Newman would be LNP leader, but someone else would have to front Question Time, take the lead in debates on legislation, and so on. Who would that be? Not John-Paul Langbroek. The Borg? Tim Nicholls? Poor old Bruce Flegg? Jeff Seeney? Whoever it was would inevitably get the media attention when Parliament sits, and the LNP caucus still contains a host of former National and Liberal leaders with continuing ambitions to be Premier.
Nor is Kate Jones’ seat of Ashgrove necessarily all that winnable.
And could not Newman be accused of departing the Mayoralty just when it gets hard: when it’s about flood reconstruction not constant tunneling? Where does it leave his Council colleagues in the election that will be held in March next year?
It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the LNP is reverting to form: whenever it looks like government won’t just fall into their laps, they descend into farcical infighting.
NB: Previous discussion on LP is here.
Update: So it seems Jeff Seeney will be Opposition Leader and Campbell Newman will be Alternative Premier. Good luck with that one, folks. I put Seeney in the post as one of the stand-ins as a joke: last time he led the opposition, he made Lawrence Springborg look positively urbane. The government has already started making hay with the hayseed revival in State Parliament, and it looks like this is payback by the Nationals dominated party machine, the extreme hick faction of the Nats (disappointed by the relegation of eternal MPs like Vaughan Johnson the the backbench) in alliance with Campbell Newman and the ex-Santoro Tim Nicholls crew. The range of questions this arrangement raises have only just begun being canvassed: for instance, will Seeney have a shadow portfolio as well as being Opposition Leader? How would the ministry be composed, who would be Deputy Premier? Basically, it makes the LNP the issue all the way to polling day.
It also substantially changes the dynamics of the Brisbane City Council election next March.
Update: Anna Bligh has played the early election threat card:
“We have a job to do this year – it is to rebuild our state. It is impossible, frankly, to imagine how we are going to do that with a capital city now being abandoned by the mayor and being left leaderless.”
The Premier said the LNP was “now completely in the hands of an unelected, unrepresentative, unaccountable group of people” outside of the Parliament, which risked turning Queensland politics into a “dysfunctional farce”.
Ms Bligh said Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman’s decision to run for state politics, and ultimately assume the Liberal National Party leadership, was a betrayal.
“(He) has decided to cut and run when people needed him most,” Ms Bligh told reporters.
“What I say to the people of Queensland is I will never cut and run when you need me.
“Campbell Newman has decided today to abandon the city of Brisbane, a city that’s been devastated by its worst natural disaster.
“This is not someone with the character, in my view, required for the job of leadership.”
“What we’ve seen today is the lord mayor of our capital city abandon it.”
Asked if she would still rule out an election this year, Ms Bligh said: “Today I can’t be in the business of ruling anything in or out”.
“What we’ve seen today, in my view, is a direct attempt to undermine the parliamentary democracy of Queensland.
“Our parliament is now at risk of descending into a dysfunctional farce courtesy of the Liberal and National Party of Queensland.”
Update: Antony Green has now found an 1898 New South Wales precedent.
Update: New post.