Normally the weekends are a very quiet affair in terms of politics, whether it be local, state or federal developments. Saturday and Sunday are usually the domain of our newspapers in the realm of politics, debating and discussing the major events of the week, as well as the occasional under-reported event that doesn’t make the headlines on any given day. This weekend, as with a few over the term of the 43rd parliament at the federal level has been the exception to the rule. Couple that with council elections across Queensland and a by-election in the seat of a former Premier and you have all the trimmings for digestion of a full political meal in the 48 hours that are usually relatively free of politics and the political process.
On Saturday night the LNP, fresh from an astonishing win at the March 24 state election, where they won 78 seats of the 89 seat parliament and Labor just 7, the LNP Lord Mayor Graham Quirk and his team fought a campaign to remain in the mayoralty and to keep a majority of councillors in the City Hall chamber.
Last night Graham Quirk and his LNP Council colleagues did just that, winning both the race for mayor in Brisbane and the contest to maintain a majority of wards won by former Lord Mayor, now Premier Campbell Newman.
The LNP Lord Mayor of Brisbane City in two-party terms has achieved nearly 70% of the votes on offer against just over 30% for ALP mayoral hopeful Ray Smith. This result means approximately a 2.5% swing to the LNP Mayor on top of the previously strong vote for the very popular former Lord Mayor Newman.
In terms of winning wards, the LNP last night won an additional three seats in the council chambers with their victory last night to now control at least 18 of the 26 Brisbane City Council areas, a strong majority.
Elsewhere, the South Brisbane by-election, for the seat occupied by former Premier Anna Bligh was also run last night, but as yet has not been won, or at least not yet conceded. The contest sees Labor’s Jackie Trad ahead at present with just over 52% of the two-party-preferred vote compared with Clem Grehan of the LNP on just under 48% of the vote. The Labor leader in the parliament last night claimed victory for the ALP, but as yet Mr Grehan of the LNP has not conceded defeat.
It appears that the ALP will reclaim the seat, a normally very safe Labor seat, with a margin prior to the March state election of 15%. But it should not provide for much celebration in Labor circles. The LNP have come very close, albeit in a by-election which are notorious for going the other way, to claiming a sensational victory.
But if that was an ordinary night for Labor electorally in Queensland, Sunday for the federal ALP has been extraordinary in the saga that is the Craig Thomson and in the realm of the recently emerged allegations against the Speaker, Peter Slipper.
Today, weary Australians awoke to the news that there would be a press conference where Craig Thomson, the member for Dobell subject to a Fair Work Australia investigation which has now concluded would announce that he would ask the ALP to temporarily suspend his membership of the party and he would move to the crossbench as an Independent MP.
This move came after over 3 years of investigation in the matter and just as much time spent by the Prime Minister and the ALP putting their support behind the MP from NSW.
But just how much will the temporary move, meant to clear some air for the Prime Minister and her party actually mean? The answer frankly is none. The MP, for as long as he can remain in the parliament will undoubtedly continue to fully support the Gillard Government in every policy and political move it makes and importantly also for the Labor Party, in matters of supply and no confidence motions.
As if that wasn’t enough drama to base an epic political drama on, or comedy as you could just as easily argue, the Prime Minister also indicated that now, after days of saying the opposite, the Speaker, facing criminal and civil allegations should remain out of the chair until all the allegations have been resolved.
This move will see Anna Burke, the Deputy Speaker of the parliament and ALP member sitting in the Speakers seat when parliament resumes on May 8th for the handing down of the budget by Treasurer Wayne Swan
These two moves were just mere political opportunism, a smokescreen, a reactionary decision in the face of what seemed more and more likely to be a permanent loss of the Speaker if the matter went unresolved until parliament resumes on budget day.
Labor federally and in Queensland will certainly be hoping it can all be up from here, but as they have proved, that is far from certain to the extent that it is extremely unlikely.
It’s election time again tomorrow across Queensland, not for a re-run of the state election so emphatically won by Campbell Newman and the LNP, but for the race to control council chambers and mayoral positions in all urban and regional councils across the state. Most eyes tomorrow will be on the mayoral race in Brisbane with the incumbent Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, seeking to be elected by the public for the first time up against Labor candidate Ray Smith. Polls this week indicate that the results will go much the same way as those in the state election.
This week a poll conducted by research company ReachTEL showed that the contest for the position of Lord Mayor is well and truly over with the current serving Mayor attracting 58% of the polling vote compared to ALP rival Ray Smith who according to the results will be unable to crack 30% of the vote at 25.4%
Even further back in the race in third place is the Greens candidate, former Australian Democrat Andrew Bartlett who has only managed to attract 14.1% of the vote if the results of this poll are borne out on Saturday. The other two candidates, Chris Carson and Rory Killen would poll only 2.6% of the vote for mayor between them according to the ReachTEL survey with a sample size of 1085 participants.
The strong result for Councillor Graham Quirk in the position of Lord Mayor also points to a continuation of the majority held by the LNP, a result achieved by the now Premier, Campbell Newman during the last vote for City Hall positions.
A further polling question in the survey asked respondents whether the recent state election result for the LNP made it more or less likely they would vote for the LNP in the race to control Brisbane. The results show that 66.5% of those who participated in the survey were either ‘more likely’ to vote for the LNP (31.1%) or their position since the landslide LNP win remained ‘unchanged’ (35.4%).
These results point to another unpleasant night for the Queensland ALP machine, the second in just a month and will reinforce the need for soul-searching and renewal within party circles.