Thursday, August 8, 2013

Beattie bombshell a Labor play for rapid results - Sydney Morning Herald

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Voters split over Beattie move

Some Beenleigh voters will vote for Peter Beattie because of his "good reputation" but others are "disgusted" and wouldn't vote for him if he was "the last politician on Earth".

The return of the uber-popular ex-Queensland premier Peter Beattie to political centre-stage is a definite fillip to Kevin Rudd's re-election campaign, which was already showing surprising signs of drift inside its first official week.

A ruthless "captain's pick" of which Julia Gillard would have been proud, Beattie's nomination sidelined the endorsed candidate and was the first genuine bombshell of this campaign. It will not be the last attempt.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with Peter Beattie after announcing the former Queensland premier would stand for the federal seat of Forde in Beenleigh in South Brisbane.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with Peter Beattie after announcing the former Queensland premier would stand for the federal seat of Forde in Beenleigh in South Brisbane. Photo: Andrew Meares

Out on the hustings, Tony Abbott took it in his stride, cleverly stitching the manoeuvre into his well established critique of Labor as hopelessly riven, addicted to intrigue, and incapable of order.

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"Another flim-flam man ... who is just going to add to the leadership instability in the Labor party," he chided.

"Am I worried about Peter Beattie? Of course not, but I bet Kevin Rudd is."

Abbott reminded voters they had backed Rudd in 2007 but got Gillard and voted for Gillard in 2010 and got Rudd. And, he said, if they vote for Rudd this time, who knows? They may end up with Rudd, but it could be Beattie, or perhaps Bill Shorten.

Abbott also says Beattie's late drafting proves Rudd is not "the electoral wonder-worker" he and others might have imagined.

Christopher Pyne was sharper still, dryly noting we already had one "narcissistic ego-maniac from Queensland".

But as cutting as these lines were, there's no doubting Beattie's inclusion is a powerful symbol in the Sunshine State, where seats must be won. "It will help with momentum, which is crucial in a campaign" said one Labor insider.

Beattie will now secure the seat of Forde for Labor, held by the LNP's Bert Van Manen, on a margin of 1.6 per cent.

Beyond its immediate impact in Forde, Beattie's long-predicted move to the federal sphere at this moment is telling in other senses.

First, it completes his conversion to the Rudd juggernaut after some pretty frank public observations in the past. Expect to hear more of them in coming Coalition dispatches.

It will also help maximise the state-wide Labor vote in Queensland, which dipped under 45 per cent after preferences in 2010 - compared to a national Labor vote of 50.1 per cent. Together, Beattie and Rudd hope to build on a natural "correction" north of the Tweed to swing as many as 6 or 7 seats back their way.

But perhaps most telling is that Beattie's move reveals his own assessment of Rudd's chances in 2013. A nine-year premier, with a unrivalled sense of the electoral mood, Beattie is not in this to wind up on the left side of the Speaker in Canberra.

While he once thought Rudd would never lead Labor again, he has now concluded the opposite. If correct, Beattie will take some of the credit and will be able to name his ministry - subject to a couple of exceptions.

Some will conclude, as Abbott suggested, that he is aiming higher than that even.

But at 61 this November, it seems pretty unlikely he is playing such a long game.

After-all, barring an unthinkable Rudd resignation, the leadership will only become vacant if Labor loses.

That means, realistically, two terms of hard slog in opposition, before even getting a shot at the Lodge. By then he'd be 66.

No, this is about winning now and Beattie, who would have to move into the electorate, has almost bet his house on it.


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