Brisbane Times and Sun-Herald journalist
Bruce Flegg walks beside premier Campbell Newman. Photo: Glenn Hunt
Premier Campbell Newman has repeated his commitment to tough it out in Ashgrove following the Liberal National Party’s decision to dump Bruce Flegg, which created a vacancy in the LNP’s safest Brisbane seat.
Dr Flegg was effectively sacked from the LNP’s parliamentary team on Friday, when the party’s state executive ruled he could not seek preselection in his west Brisbane seat of Moggill, which he holds with a margin of 23.8 per cent.
Controversial LNP MPs Peter Dowling and Ros Bates also faced the executive, but they were spared the axe.
After Friday’s meeting Dr Flegg said his dumping was part of an orchestrated LNP leadership campaign designed for a post-Newman era, on the assumption Labor candidate Kate Jones would defeat the Premier in his seat of Ashgrove.
Mr Newman holds Ashgrove by just 5.5 per cent and a recent ReachTEL poll had Ms Jones, the former Bligh government environment minister, 12 points ahead of the Premier.
That, coupled with a massive 18.6 per cent swing to Labor in the LNP’s byelection loss in neighbouring Stafford, has many wondering whether Mr Newman would be able to win the seat, even in the likely event the LNP held on to government.
On Saturday Mr Newman insisted he was going nowhere.
“I’m the preselected candidate for Ashgrove, I have a strong plan for the electorate and I’ve already delivered a huge amount of value in terms of improvements to our schools, to public transport, to road infrastructure, and I have a strong plan if I am re-elected in 2015,” the Premier said.
“I am the endorsed candidate. I am standing for Ashgrove, OK? So let’s put that to bed today.”
Mr Newman said he felt “sorry” for Dr Flegg, to whom he had offered his personal support for his candidacy as recently as Thursday.
But he said Dr Flegg’s dumping was a “matter for the LNP” and not the parliamentary leader.
“I have talked to (Dr Flegg) this morning and I have certainly expressed my commiserations to him,” he said.
“This is a tough game, but ultimately at the end of the day the selection of our candidates is a matter for the party itself.”
Standing beside Treasurer Tim Nicholls, Mr Newman would not be drawn on speculation raised by Dr Flegg that the LNP was working on a succession plan should he lose Ashgrove.
Nor would he comment on what an independent run by Dr Flegg in Moggill could do to his party’s chances in the seat.
The then-Liberal Party held Moggill by just 396 votes when Dr Flegg was preselected prior to the 2014 election.
He now holds the seat by a massive 12,535 votes.
“I’m not a political commentator,” Mr Newman said.
“I’m the person who is working with my team to turn this state around.
“Over the last 2½ years, we’ve demonstrated time and time again that we don’t get distracted by things that are not important to Queenslanders.
“We’re focused on the economy, job creation, health being turned around, the education system being turned around so we can get great jobs for our kids and also making this the safest place in Australia to bring up a family.”
The LNP is expected to announce its Moggill candidate next week.
Opposition health spokeswoman Jo-Anne Miller said the people of Queensland owed Dr Flegg a debt of gratitude for exposing the LNP’s internal turmoil.
“There are a number of MPs jockeying for the position of being the next LNP premier,” she said.
“It could be Jeff Seeney, it could be Tim Nicholls, it could be any number of who want to be the next premier of Queensland.
“But quite clearly, Campbell Newman has lost the support of a significant section of the LNP, that’s quite clear.”
Using a term used with great effect by the LNP in the past to attack Labor, Ms Miller said the “faceless men” of the LNP needed to explain to the voters of Moggill why he had been “sacked” by the party, while Peter Dowling and Ros Bates had not.
Mr Dowling became joke fodder across the world, including on late-night US comedy shows, when he was caught out sending sexually explicit texts and photos to his mistress, while Ms Bates was forced off the front bench amid claims of nepotism.
“God knows what happens within the LNP faceless executive, but I’m sure that over the next few weeks people will come out and talk about it,” Ms Miller said.
“I hope that Bruce Flegg, when he’s next in Parliament, will open up to the people of Queensland and tell people what exactly has happened.”
Ms Miller said Dr Flegg would do well if he ran as an independent in Moggill.
“I think Dr Flegg, as he said last night, has a lot of thinking to do.
“If Dr Flegg wanted to run as an independent in Moggill, I am sure he would do very well.”
But she did not appear to be that optimistic about her own party’s chances.
When asked who would be premier in 12 months’ time, Ms Miller’s party leader, Annastacia Palaszczuk, did not rate a mention.
Source : The Brisbane Times