Bligh hoping past stumbles are a distant memory
Novice Queensland MP Aidan McLindon has exposed the elephant in the Liberal National party room.
Despite the pummeling Labor premier Anna Bligh copped from the media and the polls during the latter half of 2009, as McLindon bluntly told his colleagues this week, the conservative party is "not yet in the race for government".
"Even if we all sat around in a circle with duct tape on our mouths and threw a basketball to each other for six hours and 45 minutes, we would achieve more," the 29-year-old backbencher wrote scathingly in a leaked email.
He later told the ABC the LNP lacked strategy, thought, direction and policies.
McLindon is the local councillor who beat Pauline Hanson to win the Gold Coast hinterland seat of Beaudesert for the Liberal National Party at the last state election, and he's obviously cut from the same plain-speaking cloth. His comments would be a welcome gift to Bligh in her first week back at work for 2010. Highlighting the opposition's inadequacies - rather than her government's - is just what the Queensland Premier wants this year to be about.
For all the talk about Bligh leadership ructions and the trenchant opposition to her asset sell-off, the reality is the LNP is a woeful alternative government. It's been 10 months since the last election but the party has yet to produce any policies, content to simply score easy political points in Bligh's annus horribilis.
There were plenty of opportunities in 2009 - the deeply unpopular $15 billion privatisation plan, the Labor mates corruption scandal, the Traveston Dam disaster, the deteriorating economy etc.
But the Bligh team hopes these will be a distant memory by the time the next election is due in 2012, and the LNP needs to start amassing its credentials as a credible alternative now.
Otherwise it will slink back to the Opposition benches for the umpteenth time.
Bligh geed up her colleagues before the summer break, apparently telling them the worst was behind the Government and a fresh start beckoned. The game plan for 2009 is to make the LNP the story rather than the Government.
The Bligh ministry is confident it has the measure of LNP leader John-Paul Langbroek and his deputy (and predecessor) Lawrence Springborg - they're lightweights existing in a policy-free zone. The Government also hopes it's only a matter of time before simmering internal LNP tensions about the Nationals' de facto takeover of the Liberal Party in Queensland spill over into the public arena.
Labor insiders maintain some of the ire towards the government dissipated over the holidays, as the LNP's momentum petered out. A voter poll due anytime now should reveal if there has in fact been a slight swing back to the Government.
But Bligh's fortunes are likely to hinge on how the Queensland economy performs this year. The once boom state is struggling to emerge from the global financial crisis. Debt is ballooning, Bligh is still 98,500 jobs short of creating the 100,000 jobs she promised in her election campaign, and while the state's growth remains above the national average, its unemployment rate is also higher.
She will also have to contend with the ongoing strident union campaign against the asset sell-off. Special conferences and more anti-privatisation advertising campaigns have been threatened. It remains to be seen if the public can be bought off by the promise of participating in the lucrative $7 billion float of the state's coal and freight rail network. A continued downward slide in the polls for Bligh could finally flush out a leadership challenger.
Meanwhile, the continued strain population growth is putting on Queensland's popular south-east corner is demanding more practical policy answers from the Government.
Overarching all these challenges will be Prime Minister Kevin Rudd leaning on Anna Bligh to make sure state political issues don't infect his federal re-election campaign.