Peter Beattie returns in Labor's hour of need
DURING his 2004 re-election campaign, former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said he didn't want to go into Federal politics. Canberra, he said, was too cold.
Perhaps Prime Minister Kevin Rudd can thank global warming for Beattie's change of heart?
Beattie was unveiled as Labor's candidate for the ultra-marginal LNP seat of Forde, centred on Logan, on Thursday.
It was arguably the first substantive moment in a campaign that until now has seen the two leaders playing chicken over when they will debate each other, a little bit of Labor fear-mongering over possible Coalition changes to the GST and, absurdly, whether Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was right to share a drink with former Labor MP Craig Thomson.
Oh, and the Daily Telegraph seems to have declared war on the Federal Government, because apparently their readers need naked partisanship more than they need balanced, considered coverage of a Federal election.
But back to Beattie, because his political comeback is much more interesting than whatever nonsense the Tele puts on tomorrow's front page.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd personally called Beattie home from the United States to run for the House of Representatives.
It can't have been the easiest of phone conversations. Rudd and Beattie aren't friends and didn't really bother to pretend otherwise at a joint press conference on Thursday afternoon.
In 2011 Beattie called for Rudd, then serving as Julia Gillard's Foreign Minister, to resign and leave politics.
Last year he predicted that a Rudd restoration as Prime Minister would be as short-lived as Napoleon's.
Beattie has criticised Rudd's political judgment and accused him of "brutal" treatment of staff and public servants.
To be fair, Beattie won't be the only one in the Labor caucus who has given Rudd a verbal bashing.
There's also the inevitable questions about the leadership.
Unlike former NSW Premier Bob Carr, who was also summoned out of retirement by Gillard to enter the Senate, Beattie will be in the House of Representatives.
If Rudd loses the election the Labor leadership will be declared vacant under the new party rules Rudd has introduced.
If Beattie chose to stand he could offer Labor the same home support in Queensland without the personal baggage that Rudd carries from his civil war with Gillard and other senior Labor figures.
Beattie claims he's happy to serve as a "humble backbencher".
I'll leave it to readers to judge whether they believe Beattie left his comfortable post at a US university to attend school musicals in Logan.
Beattie will need to be found a Cabinet post soon after he arrives in Canberra, at the very least.
That's if he wins in Forde, and it's a big if. A ReachTEL poll conducted on Thursday shows Beattie trailing Liberal MP Bert Van Manen, 54% to 46%.
And this is where Beattie and Labor will have to perform a delicate balancing act.
With all due respect to Van Manen, Beattie's not really running against him. He's running against Campbell Newman.
Beattie left office before Queensland Labor became disastrously unpopular under Anna Bligh.
His presence on the campaign trail provides a walking, talking reminder of any buyer's remorse Queenslanders have as a result of Newman's cuts to services, which both he and Rudd mentioned repeatedly at the press conference.
Beattie is the last Premier of Queensland who many voters actually like; Labor is best served by having him campaigning with Labor candidates in marginal seats across the state.
The problem is, Beattie apparently has his work cut out for him in Forde.
He says he won't take the seat for granted, but every hour spent helping other Labor candidates is an hour spent outside of Forde.
After an initial surge in support after Rudd returned as Prime Minister, current polls aren't showing much evidence of Labor gains in the Sunshine State.
Beattie needs to be in Logan, but Labor needs him to be in Townsville, Rockhampton, the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane as well.
Rudd called on Beattie because he needs his help.
It's hard not to suspect, though, that the Prime Minister would be happy enough to see his old (and new?) rival sacrificing his own campaign in Forde to help Labor get over the line nationally.