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The Anna Bligh Resurgence

February 22, 2011

Nobody saw it happening and it took two natural disasters to dislodge the negativity caused by a tough budget and the privatization of Queensland Rail. But it’s happened. The Galaxy poll of 800 Queenslanders published in the Courier Mail yesterday found Premier Bligh’s approval rating had jumped 23 percentage points since November to 58 percent while Labor had increased its primary vote seven points.

As I have previously argued it comes from just being natural, direct,
accountable and ever-present during the crises – by Anna just being herself.

Political leaders are never more effective than when they just do that.

Working with the always-limited talent pool of State politics the Premier has refreshed and reshaped her cabinet, with three retirements and three new faces, thus confirming her enhanced leadership.

She is astute enough to know that the follow-through – of working on a seamless reconstruction effort – is now her hardest challenge. She needs to begin each day with a half hour update meeting with all the relevant agency heads and ministers and to follow up ruthlessly any slackness or administrative tardiness.

If a departmental head is telling his middle managers they better get it right because he will be asked about it at a 9am meeting tomorrow with the Premier and her gimlet-eyed advisers, it will concentrate the minds wonderfully.

A ritual sacking at the first sign of stuff-up would be useful as well. “Execute one, educate a thousand,” as my old buddy Mao Tse Tung was fond of telling me whenever we braved the Yangtze for a healthful swim.

While the Queensland ALP still lags the conservatives 45 to 55 Anna has made her party competitive. If she persuades the ratings agencies to restore the states’s Triple A she will will be beaming at this vindication of the big privatization. Above all, she won’t want to be another George Bush Snr who saw his ratings rocket after the first Gulf War.

And then slump because…well, the failure of follow-through. As Shakespeare put it, “Readiness is all.”

  1. February 22, 2011 10:33 am

    I was impressed by Kristina Kenealey on the Press club lunch. Maybe it would be good if she lost in NSW, that would leave her free to become Prime Minister?

    • Michael Longley permalink
      February 23, 2011 3:58 pm

      Her senior political leadership career is done when she loses in March. The leadership of the state party is so widely loathed theres no way Keneally or Roozendaal can sanely consider further elected service, the federal party would lose seats in NSW if either were on a federal ticket.

  2. Ian Robertson permalink
    February 22, 2011 11:23 am

    I expected quotes from Adam Smith et al, but am impressed that you have a knowledge of the Chairman too.

  3. Watson permalink
    February 22, 2011 3:38 pm

    It’s a heavy price to pay for the promise of a half-way decent government in Queensland. I have always believed that Anna Bligh has been the undeserving victim of a legacy of abysmal mis-management by ministers and senior public servants stretching back to the Goss Government and beyond. It was about then that the great pretense really began. Rudd et al began the systematic demolition of the ‘amateur’ public service made up of old school, up-through-the-ranks public servants who actually knew the business of the department they managed.
    Rudd’s ‘professional’ public service was dedicated to ‘show’ not ‘go’. Senior public servants were required to re-apply for their own jobs, and lost them to newbies who could flash an MBA. Many high quality managers resigned in protest and had to be re-hired as expensive consultants when their replacements lost the plot. At one stage it seemed that the heads of departments were playing musical chairs. The Main Roads director became the Director of Education, replacing a director who’d gone on to the Department of Families,and so forth.
    Peter Beattie in his turn was the master of spin, endlessly beating his breast in apology for his government’s failures, especially in relation to the hospital mis-management, Patel scandal, health payroll debacle, road, rail, electricity privatization, and water infra-structure projects. Throw in a dose of corrupt and inept ministers and you have a very familiar picture to you in NSW.
    It’s about this stage that Labor ‘old boys’ vacate the office of Premier and give it to a girl. Anna has had as tough a baptism as any politician in the country’s history. She did win government in her own right, but seemed destined to be dumped at the next election, having survived this long only because she was blessed with an even more ineffectual opposition that couldn’t take two consistent steps in the same direction in ten years.

    Unless Ms Bligh’s re-shuffle extends to a remarkable revival of competence in the ministry and the public service, she will not be able to resist the return to the quagmire of scandal and backflip that have made a mockery of the Queensland State Government for nearly 20 years.

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