08-15-2006, 02:43 AM
Smug Annoying Centrist
Join Date: Sep 2005
I finally get to express my democratic right
PREMIER Peter Beattie has called a general Queensland election for September 9 - six months early - in what he has said shapes as the toughest fight of his political career.
Announcing the snap poll, he nominated health and solving the state's water crisis as the top election issues.
The pending retirement of Bundaberg MP Nita Cunningham due to ill-health meant the Government would have had to face a by-election or call a general election.
Queensland Opposition leader Lawrence Springborg said the Coalition was ready for the poll.
The Queensland Labor Government, which has been in office since 1998, holds a 16-seat parliamentary majority in the 89-seat house.
Bookmakers have Mr Beattie as a strong favourite to beat Nationals leader Lawrence Springborg and Liberals leader Bruce Flegg.
The Premier said the election had been called "at the worst possible time", but he was putting the interests of the state ahead of his own.
He said he had favoured waiting until at least February for the state poll, which was not due until May, but he opted to hold a general election rather than risk a third by-election defeat.
Mr Beattie was once the most popular state leader in the country, but his approval rating has dropped in his third term.
But the Government has battled controversies in its last term over the crisis in the public hospital system and on how to tackle the dwindling water supply in the state's drought stricken southeast.
"This will be the toughest election campaign my Government's had to face," he said.
"It will be tough and it will be hard," said Mr Beattie, who said he was unlikely to stay on as leader if Labor loses.
"What was clearly in the best interests of Queensland was to have a general election so that we could continue to deliver the water grid and to deliver the health action plan."
Mr Beattie said he did not want to pre-empt the outcome of the election by making a prediction about it - sidesstepping questions about whether he would serve a full fourth term.
But he said he would not lead Labor from the opposition benches.
"I will remain as leader of the party as long as my party wants me to (if Labor wins)," he said.
"If we lost, I wouldn't remain as leader."
Mr Beattie said the Nationals-Liberal coalition was not fit to govern.
"I don't want to see Queensland in the hands of a rabble who cannot govern this state,'' he said.
He took a swipe at the Goalition and its leadership after Dr Bruce Flegg rolled Bob Quinn as Liberal leader in a party room meeting last week.
"Clearly, leadership in this election campaign is going to be important," Mr Beattie said.
"If you look at the alternatives, they do not have the unity to provide any certainty and they will not be able to deliver their policies because they will be fighting one another.
"They actually hate one another more than they hate us."
Mr Springborg said Coalition support was rising in Queensland.
"We've turned things around in Queensland with three by-election wins in a row, putting ourselves in a much stronger position because we have convinced the majority of Queenslanders that we are developing strong alternatives," Mr Springborg said on ABC radio.
He nominated health, water and education were the key issues for the campaign.
- with AAP
I know I'll be voting Labor! I'll be voting for Pete and Anna!