Friday, 16 September 2011

Campbell Newman calls for early Qld.state election

Premier Anna Bligh slaps down calls for early election following deputy Paul Lucas' announcement of retirement

Premier Anna Bligh has slapped down calls for an early election after her deputy Paul Lucas confirmed speculation that he would quit politics at the next poll.

As the Liberal Nationals demanded the Premier call the election immediately, Ms Bligh insisted she remained committed to the disaster reconstruction task in 2011.

Mr Lucas, 49, will today hand over his deputy post but will remain in the ministry until the election, after which he will retire following 15 years in public life. His announcement brings to seven the number of Labor MPs to reveal they will be quitting politics.

Treasurer Andrew Fraser will be endorsed in the Government's No.2 position this morning, while Ms Bligh's deputy chief of staff, Stephen Beckett, is likely to seek preselection to replace Mr Lucas in the Brisbane bayside seat of Lytton.

"Queensland has been through the worst ever disasters, I am not going to walk away from the task of reconstruction," she said. "That is my central priority and responsibility this year and I am not going to be distracted from it."

However, LNP leader Campbell Newman said Ms Bligh should call an election now rather than let Mr Lucas hang on to his ministerial perks and pay packet. "On behalf of the people of Queensland I ask that you call an election and let Queenslanders have their say," he said.

Qeuensland's new deputy premier will be sworn in on Friday, a day after Paul Lucas announced he would retire at the next election. Mr Lucas said he believed his successor, tipped to be Treasurer Andrew Fraser, deserved six months in the job before the election. The 49-year-old has had some recent health scares, including a diagnosis of epilepsy, and said he wanted to spend more time with his family and improve his health.

Mr Lucas denied he was leaving a sinking ship and would still be involved in the next election behind the scenes. "Anna Bligh is the best leader we have in Australia and the best leader for the Queensland Labor Party, and I am confident that she will win the next election and she will win it with my 150 per cent support," he said.

Liberal National Party leader Campbell Newman said the move was simply "rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic" as he labelled Mr Lucas' likely replacement, Mr Fraser, "a lousy treasurer". He used the news to "respectfully, on behalf of the people of Queensland" ask Ms Bligh to call an election.

But she refused, saying Queenslanders did not need the state's disaster rebuild interrupted by electioneering.

Caucus will meet on Friday morning before the new deputy premier is sworn in by Governor Penny Wensley at 10am. Ms Bligh would not reveal her nomination but Mr Fraser issued a statement saying he was "willing to serve the premier, the state and the caucus in whatever capacity I can".

- Additional reporting AAP

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Campbell Newman's call for an early election is no more than a political stunt designed to feed the public dislike of the Bligh administration. Bligh rightly has brushed aside the call. Her mandate is to go the full term as the election is not due till Jue 2012.

My view is that the election should be held on the 31st March 2012 which is the day of the State Council elections. This would result in the saving of costs and inconvience to the general public of having 2 elections on different days possibly within a month or two of each other.

I believe the new parliament should legislate to have a fix date for all future elections except in a case of a successful vote of no confidence in the Government. The fixed date will enhance the process of democracy and also eliminate the silly games usually played by Oppositions as the election date approaches.

Ross Parisi

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