Queensland Premier Anna Bligh goes to the polls today as the nation’s first ever-elected woman Premier, and will more than likely end the day as member of a small Labor Oppostion.
Why do women in state politics only seem to get the top job in a government’s dying days?
Every state except South Australia has now had a woman as Premier or Chief Minister, all of them have got the gig before facing expected electoral annihilation. Anna Bligh defied history, and became the country’s first popularly elected Premier, but no one expected her to win (or so decisively) four years ago. Today, Anna Bligh is facing a smashing in the polls. She’s pretty much conceded defeat this week, publishing ads in major Queensland newspapers urging voters not to give too much power to her opponent, Campbell Newman.
As of this morning, Queensland Labor has a comfortable majority in Parliament: they hold 51 seats to the LNP’s (Liberal National Party) 31. Tonight there are predictions that Labor could hold as few as 12 seats. So what has gone so terribly wrong?
Truly, nothing major. Queensland’s state government has not been as scandal-plagued as the last NSW Labor Government that seemed to wake up every day to a fresh drama. But it is 20 years old.
Aside from 2 short years in the late 90s, the Labor Party has run the show in the Sunshine State since 1989. A year ago, it seemed possible that Anna Bligh could win an historic sixth term for her Party. She was riding high on polls that placed her comfortably in front of the LNP, after strong leadership during the Queensland flood crisis. 12 months on and the Premier’s Party is facing a massive swing which will take years to repair; the Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan (also a Queensland boy) admitting Labor could be ‘wiped out’.
Anna Bligh’s opponent – Campbell Newman – has modelled himself on the Tony Abbott/action man style of politics, repeating a mantra throughout the campaign that Queensland will become the “Can-Do” state under his leadership. He’s breaking new ground too, as the first leader of a party to seek Premiership without even holding a seat in Parliament.
As for Anna – yep, she’s had some unpopular reforms – but all governments have to make tough decisions at some point. She’s widely regarded as a people person, and is known to not leave a room until speaking to everyone in it. That leaves me feeling a bit sad about today. Not because my politics are left of centre (ok, maybe just a little bit). But I’m really sad because Anna Bligh is a woman, and I feel like she’s being used as a pawn by her party as they head into defeat.
She joins Carmen Lawrence, Joan Kirner and Kristina Keneally in the political graveyard of women who were picked as an interim measure in the face of electoral defeat. I can’t say I know the reason that Anna Bligh has decided to fight this election as the leader, but it’s high time both sides of politics stopped using women as a sacrificial lambs.
Anna Bligh will be remembered as the first elected woman premier – here’s hoping there’s many more to come.
Zoe is a freelance journalist and voiceover artist. In a former life she worked for two State Health Ministers, and is currently studying for her Masters of Politics while being a full-time Mum. She is often seen with a latte in one hand and a phone in the other. Find her on twitter @talkingzoe.