Deb’s ball, as La­bor goes nuts at LNP star

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - MICHAEL McKENNA

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.’’

LYN­DON MECHIELSEN

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

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