Deb’s ball, as Labor goes nuts at LNP star
It’s been decades since Kingaroy — hometown of the long-serving late Queensland premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen — has been at the centre of politics in the state.
The deeply conservative, peanut-producing capital of Australia has become a surprise battlefront for the Palaszczuk minority government as it gears up for a seat-by-seat campaign to hold on to power in an election that could be called any day.
Today Annastacia Palaszczuk will jet into the small town, about 210km northwest of Brisbane, as part of a high-level Labor assault on the seat of Nanango held by Liberal National Party deputy leader Deb Frecklington.
The Premier’s visit follows the brief drop-in of her deputy Jackie Trad, and ahead of a drip-feed procession of frontbenchers — including Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace and possibly Health Minister Cameron Dick — who will make a series of targeted announcements for the region this week.
It is a lot of effort for a seat that Labor has no chance of winning.
Ms Frecklington, a secondterm MP, was the only LNP parliamentarian whose margin increased at the 2015 poll that turfed out the Newman government three years after it was elected in a record landslide. Labor insiders concede the former bush lawyer is being targeted to keep her in Nanango ahead of the election and blunt her growing profile and effectiveness as a campaigner across Queensland.
Ms Frecklington said the strategy would not work.
“My community don’t deserve to be treated as fools,’’ she said yesterday. “They can jet in here and spend an hour or two on the ground, but the community remembers how they were completely forgotten during the years that Labor was in power.
“We were in the wilderness, and our hospitals and our schools were neglected.’’
Ms Frecklington, who holds the seat with a 13.3 per cent margin, is among the regional and city-fringe MPs under threat from a resurgent One Nation.
The minor party took the seat that is now Nanango in 1998, when it swept up 11 seats in state parliament. Dorothy Pratt, who turned independent a year after her election, remained in parliament until she retired in 2012.
The attention on Ms Frecklington could improve One Nation’s hopes by increasing the flow of preferences from Labor, which is likely to come third in the primary vote, to the minor party and away from the LNP.
Griffith University political analyst Paul Williams said although Ms Frecklington would be hard to beat, it was possible she could lose to One nation.
“Some unions are refusing to back Palaszczuk’s policy of putting One Nation last on the howto-vote cards,’’ Dr Williams said.
“That could influence an unusually high leakage of Labor preferences to One Nation.’’
Ms Frecklington, a mother of three, said she had been working hard to win o primary vote. “I work very hard to get around the electorate and represent all the communities equally,’’ she said. “And I will continue to go around regional and rural communities and make sure they have a strong voice in parliament.’’
She was elected deputy leader unopposed in a coup last year led by former Newman government treasurer and Brisbane MP Tim Nicholls, on the back of her appeal to regional voters who could decide the outcome of the election.
Ms Frecklington has been seen as a parliamentary attack dog against the dual female leadership of Ms Palaszczuk and Ms Trad. “I am very proud to be the first female deputy leader of the LNP,” she said.
“I think one of the things that is interesting is that there is a strong presence of women in Queensland politics. It’s been a natural thing, not something that is really commented on and that’s the way it should be. We really need to just have the best person for the job.’’
Queensland LNP deputy leader Deb Frecklington at Kingaroy’s famous Peanut Van with worker Alwyne Mansell yesterday
Labor’s Nanango hit squad: from left, Annastasia Palaszczuk, Jackie Trad and Grace Grace