FORMER Queensland premier Peter Beattie is making a political comeback, running for Labor in the Brisbane seat of Forde in the federal election.
The move will boost Labor’s prospects of gaining seats in the sunshine state, which it will need to make up for likely losses in other states at the September 7 poll.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is expected to make a formal announcement with Mr Beattie in Brisbane later on Thursday, on the fourth day of the election campaign.
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Labor’s current candidate in the seat, Des Hardman, is understood to have stepped aside.
The seat is being defended by Liberal Bert Van Manen with a margin of just under two per cent.
Having led Queensland from 1998 to 2007 when he retired undefeated, Mr Beattie had previously vowed never to enter federal politics, joking there would have to be a “state funeral” because wife Heather would kill him.
The former premier previously supported Julia Gillard but now believes Labor did the right thing bringing Mr Rudd back in June.
Trade Minister Richard Marles said it was very exciting news.
“Peter Beattie is one of the most formidable politicians that Labor has in this country,” he told Sky News.
“In a seat like Forde he’s going to make a real difference.”
But Opposition Leader Tony Abbott dismissed Mr Beattie as “a last minute celebrity blow-in”.
Liberal backbencher Kelly O’Dwyer said Queensland voters had already cast their judgment on Mr Beattie’s government.
“He was a wrecker of the Queensland economy,” she said.
“It just goes to show that Labor with their recycling of these former premiers – whether it’s Peter Beattie in Queensland, whether it’s Bob Carr in NSW – they have no new ideas for this country.”
Mr Abbott is campaigning in Tasmania, talking up his plans for jobs and the economy.
However, he faces a potential Nationals backlash over one of his key election policies – a $4.3 billion parental leave scheme paid for by a 1.5 per cent levy on Australia’s biggest companies.
Nationals deputy leader Barnaby Joyce said he could not rule out members crossing the floor to vote against the policy because they believe it disadvantages stay-at-home mums and women in regional areas.
The coalition is also stepping up its attack on Labor over asylum seeker boats, with the number of arrivals passing 50,000.
Coalition frontbencher Christopher Pyne dismissed Mr Beattie as a media tart addicted to spending and debt.
“We’ve already got one narcissistic ego-maniac from Queensland in federal parliament in Kevin Rudd,” he told Sky News.
“We hardly need two.”
Mr Pyne said Mr Rudd and Mr Beattie despise each other: “It’s like the mongoose and the cobra.”
Treasurer Chris Bowen said Mr Beattie was a man of great experience and would be a great addition to the Labor team.
A ReachTEL poll conducted on Thursday for the Seven Network found Mr Beattie well behind his Liberal opponent, with Mr Van Manen holding a 54 to 46 two party preferred lead.