About a month ago, I promised my new buddy Rowan I would promote this excellent day of awareness. So here's a snapshot of why it's important, courtesy of the Red Cross:
- Some four million people die each year from diseases associated with the lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.
- Dirty water and poor sanitation are the second biggest killer of children worldwide. Some 4,000 children under five die every day from those same associated diseases.
- Worldwide 2.7 billion people do not have adequate sanitation facilities.
- And 880 million people do not have access to clean water.
I must apologise to Rowan. I had the best of intentions to write something devastatingly clever in support of World Water Day.
But today was somewhat distracting.
For you see, while the course of politics never did run smooth, today was rougher than navigating the Horn of Africa in an upturned tortoise shell. Today the Queensland political landscape capsized, sending all sprawling a-midships.
Lawrence Springborg, the now former deputy leader of the Liberal-National Party, put it best when he said the organisation was now in "unchartered waters".
For the first time in Queensland history, the alternate Premier is not an elected member of state parliament, but rather, Brisbane's current Lord Mayor - Campbell Newman. After he ended days of speculation by announcing his tilt, the sitting leader, John-Paul Langbroek stood aside. Then Premier Anna Bligh weighed in, accusing Councillor Newman of "cutting and running" from the people of Brisbane, just when they need him to help rebuild the city after the devastating January floods. Jeff Seeney was elected Opposition Leader at an evening partyroom meeting - but he's just doing the job in the parliament until Campbell Newman can win a seat, the LNP can win the next state election and Newman can become Premier.
Yes, it was a long day in my messy little state parliament cubicle.
Certainly the whole affair had a tantalisingly grubby tinge to it. In the same way the Gillard-Rudd knifing made you either shrink into your chest, or raise your eyebrows in a blast of surprise at the sheer ballsiness of it all - this had me alternately chilled with body horror, and gasping with delight at political chicanery worthy of a Yes, Minister episode.
Premier Bligh's admission that she can no longer rule an early election "in or out", is the key one here for political journos. As I see it (and believe me, these are just my own observations), she has a couple of options:
- Call an election virtually immediately. This could see her capitalise on her popularity after the natural disasters, and try to take advantage of the disquiet in the LNP. However, Campbell Newman is arguably more popular than Bligh after the floods, so that could work against her.
- Call an election in the second half of the year. Wait until the interim report from the flood inquiry to be released, then say stability and certainty is needed before the next storm season. Hope that the LNP - and particularly "puppet" leader Jeff Seeney - do something to make themselves look foolish.
- Wait out the year. Go to the polls early 2012, as per the initial plan, and try to capitalise on that. "Look, we said 2011 was our year of rebuilding, and we've rebuilt!". Of course that would require achieving a competent level of rebuilding. If voters see disaster-struck areas being fixed, it could engender goodwill. But if not...
Of course, Anna Bligh will still be contending with the issue of incumbency - Labor's been holding the reins in Queensland for most of the past 20 years. And a lot of people are still angry over asset sales. Meanwhile the LNP will have to clear its decks of its own buffoonish tendencies if it's to present itself as a credible alternative. I guess they hope focusing on Campbell Newman and his Awesome Powers of Lord Mayoral Awesomeness™ will do much of that for them.
If only this had happened exactly one week ago. I could have finished this post with an excellent warning to "Beware the Ides of March". But comedy, tragedy, history - Queensland politics is currently an intriguing mix of all three.