September election for Qld

Mr Beattie, who has been premier since 1998, said he would have preferred to wait until February to hold the election, but that the pending retirement of an MP due to ill-health meant his government would have had to face either a by-election or call a statewide poll.

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He said he had chosen the latter because it was in the best interests of the state, not the interests of his party, “The timing of this general election couldn’t be worse for the government.”

The Labor government holds a 16 seat majority in Queensland’s 89 seat parliament, but it has battled controversies recently, including a crisis in the public hospital system and the dwindling supply of water.

An opinion poll published last weekend gave the Nationals-Liberal coalition a two percentage point lead over Labor on primary votes. Labor has lost three seats in by- elections over the last 12 months.

Leadership

Mr Beattie said he would he would remain leader of the Labor party only if he won this election.

“I will remain as leader of the party as long as my party wants me to… If we lost, I wouldn’t remain as leader,” he told a news conference.

Mr Beattie also took a swipe at his opposition – the National and Liberal parties, saying its leadership is weak. “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.

“You all know, because you have covered the elections, they actually hate one another more than they hate us,” he told reporters at the conference.

Coalition leaders

Meanwhile, Queensland’s coalition leaders have refused to spell out who would become premier if Labor is ousted at the poll if the Liberals take more seats than the Nationals.

The National Party is the traditional senior party of the coalition in Queensland – they currently have 16 MPs to the Liberals seven.

Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg confirmed that if the Nationals remained dominant, he would be premier in a coalition government but when asked would not go into detail about what would happen if more Liberals than Nationals were elected.

“Internal working issues between two parties are always matters that are internal working issues,” Mr Springborg told reporters.

Liberal leader Dr Bruce Flegg, who took the leadership only last week declared that the coalition’s position was clear.

“Lawrence is the leader of the coalition and the alternative premier,” Dr Flegg said.

Mr Springborg said the election was about leadership, “Leadership is about running on your record – it’s not about running away from your record.”

“This government is running away from its record on health .. water and roads.”

The coalition has also promised to deliver four new dams within 12 months if it wins the election, using state owned land to speed up the process, instead of the Beattie government’s proposed two new dams which are being held up by environmental concerns.