What can you do for North, Newman?
POLITICS can be brutal. Just ask John-Paul Langbroek, who resigned yesterday as Opposition Leader after a coup by Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman and the party’s organisational arm. Just before Christmas, Mr Langbroek was riding high in the polls, with an approval rating as preferred premier twice that of the incumbent, Labor’s Anna Bligh. Despite the buoyant opinion polls, Mr Langbroek was consistently plagued by festering internal squabbles, requiring tough decisions, which alienated several powerful caucus figures, as well as the party’s president, Bruce McIver. Along came the Brisbane floods and Cyclone Yasi and Ms Bligh’s stellar performance reversed those terrible polling figures. Lurking in the background was the popular Mr Newman who excelled during the floods crisis, improving an already-high approval rating during one of the south-east’s darkest hours. Now, Mr Newman is the great white hope for the LNP as it tries to put 15 years of political wilderness aside and regain government. Yesterday’s extraordinary political developments mean Mr Newman, nicknamed the ‘‘ Can Do’’ lord mayor, will lead the conservatives into the next election, even though he isn’t actually a member of State Parliament. As the pro-Newman backers so adeptly put it, it’s a risky plan to wrest power from Labor and the LNP has certainly put all its eggs into one basket. For Queenslanders, and in particular North Queenslanders, Mr Campbell’s ascension leaves more questions unanswered than answered. Mr Langbroek was a fierce advocate for North Queensland. He had visited Townsville three times during the past five weeks, anointing Hinchinbrook MP Andrew Cripps as the minister for North Queensland if he won government. On the other side of politics, Ms Bligh has a swag of recent ticks beside her name with North Queenslanders, including a new Townsville Hospital emergency department and a new city mall. She played a key role in changing City Hall’s thinking on its draconian water rates policy. Add to that her leadership and calmness during Cyclone Yasi and it’s logical to suggest she will be far from a pushover for any new leader of the LNP. The challenge for Mr Newman is to ensure that he displays the same type of commitment and drive that he has as Brisbane lord mayor for the whole of Queensland. If his election bus stalls at Caboolture, the people of North Queensland will punish him. The first thing he should do is commit to fixing the Bruce Highway between Mackay and Cairns and ensure our region has strong representation within an LNP cabinet.