RIGHT FLANK OWN GOALS BOOST ALP

Other par­ties’ bag­gage lifts La­bor’s prospects, writes Den­nis Atkins

The Courier-Mail - - OPINION - Den­nis Atkins is The Courier-Mail’s na­tional af­fairs ed­i­tor den­nis.atkins@news.com.au

WHAT do Steve Dick­son, Fraser An­ning, Tim Ni­cholls and Camp­bell New­man have in com­mon?

They are the four peo­ple most likely to help An­nasta­cia Palaszczuk pull off an un­ex­pected and, un­til now, un­likely, vic­tory from the elec­toral fire.

Steve Dick­son, the tit­u­lar One Na­tion Queens­land leader (pic­tured above with Pauline Han­son), was un­recog­nis­able to Townsville vot­ers a week ago.

Hamish Mac­don­ald, on Ten’s The Project, went to the north­ern cap­i­tal and asked ran­dom peo­ple if they could name Dick­son af­ter look­ing at his photo. No one could.

Every one of these vot­ers recog­nised Han­son im­me­di­ately.

Now some of these peo­ple might know who Dick­son is af­ter his dun­der­headed ram­blings about the Safe Schools pro­gram in which he claimed pri­mary school stu­dents were be­ing taught “how to mas­tur­bate” and “how to strap on dil­dos”.

Dick­son could of­fer no proof this was re­ally hap­pen­ing – it isn’t – and he has now apol­o­gised to ev­ery­one, with a spe­cial “sorry” for teach­ers. He clearly kicked a big own goal.

Fraser An­ning is the One Na­tion sen­a­tor who was picked in a High Court re­count to re­place cit­i­zen­ship dunce Mal­colm Roberts. He quit Han­son’s party within 20 min­utes of be­ing sworn in as an Up­per House MP.

New polling re­leased yes­ter­day re­vealed there is a “sus­pi­cion” about One Na­tion and its record, with mem­o­ries still alive about the way its 11 MPs elected in the 1998 state poll crum­bled in chaos be­fore the term was out.

One spe­cific point raised by re­spon­dents to the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute for Progress polling is a dis­like of ex­actly what An­ning did.

“One Na­tion is also viewed sus­pi­ciously, even by those vot­ing for it, be­cause its real leader, Han­son, is not run­ning for state par­lia­ment, and it has a record of de­fec­tions once elected,” says the AIP re­port.

The poll also high­lights a wor­ry­ing mes­sage in this state elec­tion for Mal­colm Turn­bull and he could feel its force come Satur­day week.

“One Na­tion’s sup­port has been swelled by the de­cline in the Lib­eral Party vote, and this has been driven by cul­tural con­cerns,” says the AIP re­port.

“These vot­ers are con­ser­va­tives, not ‘mod­er­ates’, and they are un­com­fort­able with a party that is too ‘cen­trist’.

“Where once the Na­tional Party might have been home, their only main­stream ma­jor party op­tion is now for­mally part of the fed­eral Lib­eral Party.”

The AIP’s Graham Young says this ex­plains, in large part, why One Na­tion’s sup­port has spread into the greater met­ro­pol­i­tan area where it is pick­ing up women and younger peo­ple.

This was seen in the very high One Na­tion vote in The Courier-Mail’s Galaxy poll of the once-solid La­bor seat of Lo­gan at the week­end.

The other fac­tors thrown up in Young’s re­search is that Ni­cholls con­tin­ues to carry a lot of bag­gage be­cause of his role as New­man’s Trea­surer.

The polling shows this was al­ways go­ing to be an elec­tion where job cre­ation was top of the agenda.

How­ever, while Palaszczuk car­ries plenty of dead weight on this, Ni­cholls also runs with a hefty hand­i­cap.

“That hand­i­cap is Camp­bell New­man,” said Young’s re­port.

“While New­man has been gone 33 months, one of Ni­cholls two big­gest weak­nesses is that not only was he part of the New­man govern­ment, but he was seen as be­ing the right hand man who ‘slashed’ jobs and spend­ing.

“The LNP has been run­ning ad­ver­tise­ments apol­o­gis­ing for the New­man govern­ment, but the elec­torate is with­hold­ing ab­so­lu­tion.

“Per­haps they need to hear the word ‘sorry’ more fre­quently from Tim Ni­cholls, or per­haps there is noth­ing he can do.”

The AIP re­port says 52 per cent of re­spon­dents ex­pect a hung Par­lia­ment but this is not what most want – 41 per cent want La­bor to win while 39 per cent say the LNP should win.

“This (con­tra­dic­tion) un­der­lines one of the fea­tures of the mi­nor party vote – for many, if not most, it is a vote for protest, not for govern­ment,” says the re­port.

“Most vot­ers (53 per cent) don’t think the Govern­ment de­serves to be re-elected, while only 37 per cent think they do.

“The po­si­tion is worse for the Op­po­si­tion with 56 per cent think­ing they don’t de­serve to be elected, while only 23 per cent think they do.

“Tellingly only 50 per cent of LNP vot­ers be­lieve their own party de­serves elec­tion, while 16 per cent don’t, and an­other 34 per cent are neu­tral.”

This is a heady mix which could end up any­where.

Nei­ther of the ma­jor par­ties is counted out as an out­right win­ner, al­though it’s go­ing to be harder for the LNP.

La­bor is still in the hunt to get 47 seats which, alone, is re­mark­able.

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