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Qld: Back to soul searching for LNP after election loss

By Gabrielle Dunlevy, State Political Correspondent
22 Mar 2009 12:10 AM

BRISBANE, March 21 AAP - Queensland's Liberal National Party will look to a new leader as it laments an election result that by past standards was good, but not quite good enough.

Despite polls predicting a photo finish, and talk of a hung parliament or a minority LNP government, the newly merged conservative party managed only a 3.5 per cent swing.

It was well short of the 8.3 per cent required for majority government, but LNP Leader Lawrence Springborg said the party still had cause for celebration albeit from the opposition benches.

As he conceded defeat, he noted the swing matched the one that ultimately allowed the West Australian conservatives to form minority government.

"Normally those sorts of seats and the sort of swing we've had tonight might even bring about a change of government," he said, as he announced he'd step down as leader after three failed bids to become premier.

"But ... that wasn't meant to be and I very much accept the mandate of the people of Queensland."

Mr Springborg said he was proud of his achievement in merging the Liberal and National parties last July, and the LNP was now a force to be reckoned with.

"As far as the LNP is concerned it is absolutely unstoppable; the momentum is significant," he said.

In terms of leadership, he said it was time for the party to "move on".

"It's been an enormous privilege to take us forward from 15 seats in 2004 to potentially 35 seats in this election," he said.

"However I accept my days as opposition leader are numbered and it is now up to my parliamentary colleagues to choose the team that they want to go forward to fight the next election."

LNP President Bruce McIver said the party would deconstruct its election loss and its campaign, which was fought largely on economic management and health.

Mr McIver said he did not know what factors lost the election for the party, which had been ahead in the opinion polls.

"We accept the verdict of the Queensland people. We'll be listening to the Queensland people now on how we can improve, what we could have done," Mr McIver told AAP.

"We've put together this party that's got this result of (a) 10-12 seat gain in eight months. Imagine what we might be able to do in three years."

Senior LNP figure Michael Caltabiano said former National Party leader Jeff Seeney, infrastructure spokeswoman Fiona Simpson, environment spokesman Dave Gibson, new MP for Indooroopilly Scott Emerson or treasury spokesman Tim Nicholls all had "great potential" for leadership.

"There is ample potential for leadership," Mr Caltabiano told ABC radio.

"We increased our vote by a third. Anywhere else people would have been ecstatic, but because it is from a low base, we have a big hill to climb."

But Mr Seeney, who lost the leadership to Mr Springborg in January last year, said he would not be putting his hand up.

He said Mr Springborg, and all LNP members, would now do a lot of soul searching.

"I can tell you from experience, the first 12 months after an election loss, it's a hard slog, it's a gut-wrenching job," Mr Seeney said.

In her victory speech, Premier Anna Bligh congratulated Mr Springborg on a well-run campaign, and wished he and his family well for the future.

"Lawrence Springborg deserves full credit for uniting the conservative side of politics in Queensland," she said.