Goss government on edge of disaster

Issue 

By Bill Mason BRISBANE — The Queensland Labor government is on the edge of defeat, following a likely Liberal win in the vital by-election in Mundingburra on February 3. Despite late polls showing a trend toward the ALP hanging on to the Townsville-based seat, the Liberals' Frank Tanti held an 800 vote lead over Labor's Tony Mooney at the end of counting on election night. It was estimated Tanti would have a lead over Mooney of some 2% after distribution of preferences, on available figures. Labor would need to take almost 65% of some 3000 remaining postal and absentee votes — an almost impossible task — to be able to hold on to the seat. Liberal Party leader Joan Sheldon has called on Premier Wayne Goss to recall parliament so that the future of government can be decided on the floor of the house. A Liberal win would tie the house at 44 seats each for the ALP and the Coalition, with conservative independent for Gladstone Liz Cunningham to determine the issue. Goss admitted the situation did not look good, and that his government was in jeopardy on election night. However, "There's quite a few acts to be played out yet", he said. Speculation has continued that if Labor loses, Goss may resign as party leader in favour of health minister Peter Beattie. The Mundingburra by-election was ordered by the Court of Disputed Returns, when former Labor member Ken Davies won by only 16 votes. His accusations of bribery against Labor after being sacked as candidate in December, almost certainly cost the ALP the election — although the Criminal Justice Commission cleared the Labor Party of the charges only days before the by-election. Independents gained almost 15%, compared to 12% in the state general election last July 15. Women's Party candidate Pauline Woodbridge and HEMP candidate Billy Tait gained 573 and 322 votes respectively. "Labor's chickens have come home to roost in Mundingburra", Coral Wynter, Democratic Socialist candidate for Griffith in the federal election, said on February 4. "Because the ALP has lost the support of a huge section of working people, the former Labor stronghold of Mundingburra appears to have gone to the conservatives. "A Coalition state government will be a tragedy for Queenslanders. But Labor's right-wing policies have prepared the way for Borbidge and Co."