The Queensland Liberal National Party plans to harness voter unrest over the dumping of Kevin Rudd as it gears up to fight the federal election.
The issue arose as the LNP itself came under fire for unfairly dumping Ryan MP Michael Johnson, who is now standing as an independent candidate.
LNP state president Bruce McIver told the party’s state convention – which was moved forward because of speculation of an imminent election – that the Labor government had failed in the areas of education, climate change and economic management.
But its worst sin, he said, had been dumping Mr Rudd as prime minister.
“We have seen the sheer brutality of the faceless men of the Labor Party and union movement that disposed of the democratically-elected first-term prime minister with no regard to the Australian public,” Mr McIver said.
“Clearly a slap in the face for all Queenslanders by Labor. “Quite clearly Labor is capable of anything to hold onto power.”
Mr McIver said Julia Gillard was providing “an entirely different competition”, but could be defeated.
“Prime Minister Gillard – I think the honeymoon is over,” Mr McIver said. Queensland Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek compared Ms Gillard with Premier Anna Bligh.
“Julia Gillard is just like Anna Bligh – before an election she says she is a Ferrari, all glitz, glamour, shiny-new paint and that ‘go fast’ sound,” he said. “It’s only after the election you find out that she’s really a kit car.”
The attacks came as The Courier-Mail newspaper published a transcript of a telephone message Tony Abbott left with Mr Johnson in February, before the Queensland MP was dumped over allegedly using his political position to further his business interests.
In the message Mr Abbott says in part: “I did speak to (LNP state president Bruce) McIver.
I said to him as far as I was concerned you’d been a member of the team, in fact a fine member of the team … and that … I would be very, very disappointed if he wasn’t to get right off your case.” Mr Johnson said it showed the party organisation acted inappropriately.
“Just as Kevin Rudd was thrown out as prime minister by the people in the unelected backroom of the Labor Party, this shows the influence of the former National Party people who run the LNP today,” he said.
Mr Abbott told reporters in Toowoomba, where he announced $700 million for a road bypass, he stood by Mr Johnson at the time, but was not aware of all the information held by the LNP.
“More information came to light since I had that conversation with Michael.
The LNP took action and I support the party,” Mr Abbott said. He said he was confident the LNP in Queensland was focused on the federal election. “I think the federal election will be won or lost here in Queensland – I think the Labor brand is tainted here in Queensland,” he said.
Labor frontbencher Craig Emerson said the LNP was in a state of “confusion and chaos”.