Nick Carroll: Can Rabbit Really Win Burleigh This Saturday?

30 Oct 2020 4 Share

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

Photo: Wayne 'Rabbit' Bartholomew - Labor for Burleigh Facebook Page

Photo: Wayne 'Rabbit' Bartholomew - Labor for Burleigh Facebook Page

COASTALWATCH | NICK CARROLL

OUR SURFER POLITICIANS!

(Maybe it’s the Covid. Maybe it’s just the times. In the same month, two of Australia’s epic old school surfers are running for political office: Rabbit Bartholomew for the Queensland State seat of Burleigh, and Maurice Cole for a seat on the Surf Coast Shire Council. We’ll know the results of both races in a week or so. But in the meantime, given this unique moment in history, we decided to take a close look at each race: what the hell is going on, and if either of these huge characters are in with a chance.)

Part two: Rabbit and the Burleigh Barrel

“I call it the Bugsy Effect,” says Suzanne Simonot.

Suzanne is part of the Rabbit Army — a small but very revved up crew who’ve spent the past couple of weeks on the campaign trail, assisting Rabbit through the craziness of pre-election in southern Queensland.

Two days out from election day, Bugs himself is under orders to talk with nobody but Burleigh voters, so we’ve got Suzanne on the line.

They’re at Fradgley Hall, just behind the Burleigh bowlo, and one of two pre-polling booths in town. This is where almost all the candidates can be found during the final days of campaigning, and where Suzanne claims the “Bugsy Effect” has played out.

Example one: aside from the UAP candidate, who hasn’t shown up yet, everyone’s getting on with each other. “Georgie (Batty, One Nation) had her birthday yesterday, so we all had chocolate cake. That the kind of mood around the place.”

Example two: interesting people just keep showing up. “Wayne Swan was here this morning, handing out leaflets. Wayne Swan! Things just keep falling into place.”

If nothing else, the Bugs campaign will have given us a radical election poster.

If nothing else, the Bugs campaign will have given us a radical election poster.

Maurice Cole didn’t have a Suzanne. But Rabbit’s running a very different race to Maurice. There’s a sizeable gulf between a regional councillor’s seat and a place on a State Parliament bench. While the Torquay candidate is a classic independent bent on a strong single issue, Bugs is a party recruit, personally called into play by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk as part of her re-election strategy.

The Premier seems to have a soft spot for surfers. She was front and centre on the beach at Greenmount back in February, announcing a forthcoming push for legal muscle to be placed behind the Gold Coast’s World Surfing Reserve.

Now she’s clearly throwing a fair bit of support behind the Bhagwan, as part of the Qld Government’s election strategy — target seats that a good local candidate might just swing against an uninspiring Opposition.

In return, Bugs is hammering all the key Labor lines. Check out his candidate Facebook page, and you’ll see him hitting them one by one: the $8 billion economic recovery plan, big investment in schools, an independent environmental watchdog, and most of all, the Premier’s success in keeping the Covid-19 pretty much at bay.

This last factor is the big wildcard, in Burleigh as in most of southern Queensland, where the border closure seems to have been embraced — but who knows if it’s earned the Premier another term?

But the bigger wildcard might be Rabbit himself. A star candidate’s normal job is simple: take the party’s platform to a local level. Bugs needs something more. Burleigh is tight enough that it may swing on preferences, and nobody on the ticket has given Labor its first preference.

It’s a huge call, but Suzanne says he’s bearing up well. “He’s going to the gym,” she told us. “We’re making sure he’s eating well. All the sisters are around.” She says that on election day, the Rabbit Army will swell to unprecedented proportions.

And there’s yet another factor. For Rabbit, this effort fits his lifelong script. From day one, he’s wanted his surfing life to have real meaning in the world. He was one of pro surfing’s first True Believers — not so much because it was possibly the best life scam in human history, but because he wanted the wider world to see surfing as a truly legit thing, worthy of recognition, whose devotees could hold their heads high in any company.

If he pulls this one off, it might just edge his world title.

THE RACE

Burleigh, Qld 

Up for grabs: A seat in Queensland’s Legislative Assembly 

Candidates: Seven

Alignments (in order on the ballot paper): Georgie Batty (One Nation), Scott Wallace (Animal Justice Party), Michael Hart (LNP), Ingrid Weber (Legalise Cannabis Party), Rachel Mebberson (Greens), Carlo Filingeri (Clive Palmer’s UAP), Rabbit (Labor)

Enrolled voters: 34,044

Rabbit could win with: A 4.9% swing to him

Vote: Saturday October 31, or postal vote prior

Does Rabbit have a shot? Yes, but it’d be a shock result. He is hampered by being last on the ballot paper and by preference deals between the LNP and One Nation, which will benefit the incumbent Michael Hart. He needs a big swing, which isn’t really on State-wide for Labor, but Bugs may make up for that through personal appeal.

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