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Queensland in caretaker mode: election on Jan 31

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman will face voters on January 31, after a controversial first term that saw thousands of public servants sacked and promises to privatise more government assets.

The Queensland election didn’t need to be called until March, but Newman (pictured) said this morning the state’s economic recovery is “too important to be jeopardised by ongoing election speculation”.

“There’s no time to waste securing Queensland’s economic future with our strong plan for job creation,” he said on Facebook. After visiting Government House Newman addressed the media, saying cutting short his term would create business certainty.

But it’s polling that had a greater impact on the timing, with support deteriorating for the government. A weekend Newspoll had the parties locked at 50-50 on a two-party preferred basis, with Newman’s Liberal-National Party government just one point ahead of Labor on primary support.

Newman also faces defeat in his own seat, with Labor’s Kate Jones set to steal Ashgrove on current polling. The LNP is likely to turn to Treasurer Tim Nicholls or Transport and Main Roads Minister Scott Emerson if it holds government and Newman loses.

Labor only holds nine seats in the 89-seat Parliament, but opposition leader Annastacia Palaszczuk has been buoyed by strong polling numbers and dissatisfaction with the Newman government over a number of key policy initiatives.

Palaszczuk will campaign against Newman’s plans to privatise power and port assets. Labor was also highly critical of cuts to government ranks, which saw almost 14,000 public servants lose their jobs.

Caretaker conventions will be in place formally once the writs are issued for the election, though “care should be exercised” before then. The advice to departments reads:

“During the election period, Ministers would usually sign only necessary or routine correspondence. It is desirable that judgement be used in determining whether correspondence of significance should be signed in this period by the Minister or by the Chief Executive Officer. Care is taken when preparing departmental replies not to assume that one party or another will form the government after the election. References to post-election action are in terms of the ‘incoming government’.

“During an election period, Ministers may not request the development of new policy initiatives but may request factual material from departments. Departmental officers should not use their official position to act in a partisan manner.

“Departmental officers who feel there is a difficulty with a particular request from a Minister may raise the matter with the Chief Executive Officer of the Department who may, if necessary, consult with the Director-General of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet.”

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The Mandarin

The Mandarin staff journalists.