The one person who can replace Frecklington

IN THE space of just a few days the hopes of a Queensland Liberal National Party so recently in command have now been hugely deflated.

Just months after demolishing federal Labor before pillorying the State Labor Government over integrity issues, the LNP is now itself floundering amid internal brawls over anthropogenic climate change and the leadership of the federal Nationals.

It's therefore hardly surprising that MP Llew O'Brien's dummy spit should rip open a barely concealed seam between progressive Liberals and conservative Nationals.

At least the LNP believed that, come October, voters would likely dump an increasingly tired state Labor Party.

But even that hope was dashed by last weekend's YouGov poll which, despite an after-preference vote tied at 50-50, indicates a revival for Labor and a decline for the LNP.

Worse still, Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington has again failed to find electoral traction, with just 22 per cent of Queenslanders preferring her as premier over Annastacia Palaszczuk.

I suspect LNP members now feel like the driver of a gently aquaplaning car gracefully sliding into a guardrail.

 

 

Captured in slow motion, they know exactly what is happening but remain powerless to do anything about it.

LNP figures will publicly dismiss last weekend's poll as irrelevant.

They'll also point to equally poor polling for Labor.

Where Palaszczuk's preferred-premier rating of just 34 per cent is hardly Hawke-like, her 28 per cent approval - a collapse of 17 points over 12 months - is downright disastrous.

And the fact 44 per cent of Queensland voters now disapprove of Palaszczuk's leadership will ensure the 31 October election will be close.

But none of that obscures the fact that Frecklington - with an approval rating of just 23 per cent and a disapproval of 44 per cent - is now the handbrake on an LNP careening toward defeat.

Only one conclusion can be drawn: Deb Frecklington cannot win the 2020 Queensland election for the LNP.

To remain competitive against a Labor Party not only recovering in the polls but which is a proven campaign master, Liberal National MPs must gird their loins and prepare for leadership change.

I hear from Liberal National MPs of a muted frustration about an opposition that, after Labor's dismal 2019, should be running rings around the Palaszczuk Government.

But I also hear there's absolutely no desire to spill Frecklington.

On current sentiments - under the inertia of inevitability so many backbenchers share - the dull-but-well-meaning Deb will coast, ghost-like, to the October poll.

The party enjoys numerous leadership options among its other 38 MPs; it just needs courage to embrace them.

 

When other options are eliminated, David Crisafulli is the LNP’s last best hope of winning the state election.
When other options are eliminated, David Crisafulli is the LNP’s last best hope of winning the state election.

 

Sadly, there are too few women among to choose from.

Jann Stuckey's resignation leaves just Ros Bates (Mudgeeraba), Fiona Simpson (Maroochydore) and Ann Leahy (Warrego), with Simone Wilson (Pumicestone) almost certainly too inexperienced.

Then there are the blokes. Given that Brisbane is unlikely to ever again warm to a regional conservative, that rules out the likes of Dale Last (Burdekin), Jarrod Bleijie (Kawana), Ted Sorenson (Hervey Bay) or David Janetzki (Toowoomba South).

Eliminating former LNP leaders John-Paul Langbroek and Tim Nicholls - and former Liberal leader Mark McArdle (Caloundra) - the list narrows to Christian Rowan (Moggill), Tim Mander (Everton), Steve Minnikin (Chatsworth), Rob Molhoek (Southport) and David Crisafulli (Broadwater).

Given the need to win over progressive secular Brisbane, conservatives such as Mander and Rowan will be overlooked.

But the party is unlikely to embrace Minnikin either, given his support for Labor's 2018 abortion law reform.

If we set aside the lower profile Molhoek, we're left with Crisafulli - a former journalist and local government minister long touted as a future premier.

An experienced minister who's also good on the soundbite, Crisafulli - an urbane and energetic progressive who's not yet 40 - is the LNP's best hope of toppling a premier who, despite tumbling approval ratings, is still Labor's best asset.

But opposition MPs will almost certainly ignore all this and instead sit - politely and passively - in the back of a campaign bus of which Frecklington never really had control. Perhaps the LNP will have sorted out its leadership woes by the time of the 2024 state election.

Dr Paul Williams is a senior lecturer at Griffith University in Brisbane



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