National

Morrison trying to save Queensland seats

By AAP Newswire

The coalition holds 21 out of 30 seats in Queensland and Scott Morrison's government probably can't keep all of them.

Nerves have been on edge since the Longman by-election when the Liberal-National vote plunged to 30 per cent.

It was one of the reasons Malcolm Turnbull was dumped as prime minister.

"Many of my colleagues, especially those colleagues in Queensland, thought that we would stand a better chance at this coming election with a change of prime minister," Liberal MP Craig Kelly told the ABC on Thursday.

Their choice of replacement was Peter Dutton, a Queenslander and conservative who some Liberals thought would help them in the Sunshine State.

Unfortunately for them he wasn't popular in the rest of the country, and Morrison got the job instead.

Morrison made his first trip as prime minister to drought-stricken areas of Queensland.

He also spent this past week on a bus and plane tour from Brisbane to Mackay, sampling pies and trying on baseball caps as he shook hands at events.

Morrison wasn't just in Queensland to meet with punters, although he did plenty of that.

He also met with the party faithful in a bid to reinvigorate the rank and file, who hand out how-to-vote cards and spread the Liberal message on the ground.

"I'm here to actually bring together our supporters and they're coming back," Morrison told reporters in Rockhampton.

"You talk about last night at the pub. I had a family come up to me and said, 'you know what, I walked away from the LNP and I'm back now, I'm back 100 per cent'.

"Supporters and members and voters are coming back to the Liberal and National Parties because they know about what we believe, and what we're committed to and what we're delivering for them."

Morrison also brought forward announcements that were originally slated for the election campaign.

The plan is to show Queensland the coalition "gets things done".

So rather than wait for an election campaign when everything gets swallowed up, Morrison is rolling announcements out now.

"We've got a plan now," one Queensland MP told AAP.

But will it work? And will it be enough?

The polls suggest Labor is heading for a solid election victory, similar to the way Tony Abbott swept through a fractured and exhausted Labor in 2013.

From the big cities of Sydney and Melbourne, Queensland might seem like a conservative bastion of voters who back the coalition, but results don't bear that out.

Labor won a majority of seats in Queensland under Bob Hawke and Paul Keating over three elections.

Then in 1996 Labor was almost wiped out as John Howard powered to victory.

But the state swung heavily back to Labor in 2007, when Kevin Rudd beat Howard.

When Queensland swings, it swings big.

Coalition MPs say it's too early to know how the Queensland result is looking.

But they believe Morrison has the personality and style to make a difference.

The prime minister has aggressively branded himself as a suburban dad who loves his rugby league and wants to see Aussies get on with each other.

From the coalition's side, that seems to be playing well in Queensland, and they expect it to do well in Western Australia too.

Morrison spent a lot of time in WA as treasurer, trying to sort out the GST.

The coalition holds 11 out of 16 seats in WA, but locals were predicting they could drop to just six after the next election.

Shoring up Queensland and WA is the difference between a huge election loss, and saving some of the furniture.

The Longman by-election put the fear of God into LNP MPs, but Labor will not be able to replicate how much it spent in that one campaign across 151 seats.

The volunteers and union support will also be spread more thinly across the ground.

The coalition will target Herbert, Lilley and Longman as potential gains, but the focus is on protecting the seats already in coalition hands.

Morrison has shown this week he won't die wondering.