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Labor's Win in State Runs Counter To Australia's Conservative Tide

IN an election season that has the Labor Party on the run in the rest of Australia, Queensland Labor Premier Wayne Goss won overwhelmingly in a state election Saturday.

The victory in the northeastern state cements the rule of the longest-serving state premier and slightly brightens the fortunes of the party.

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The popular Mr. Goss is the one premier now in power in mainland Australia who won his seat in an election. Premiers in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and New South Wales each came to power after their predecessors were toppled by various scandals.

Goss's victory is seen to be as significant as the 1989 election that brought him to power, when Goss broke the three-decade grip of the conservative National Party's Joh Bjelke-Peterson.

Goss's recipe for victory, political analysts say, was simple: He was a good manager and the economy has weathered the recession better than other states. While providing a favorable climate for business, the state has also attracted many pensioners with its lower housing costs and pleasant climate.

A tourism boom is partly responsible for an annual economic growth rate of 2.1 percent compared with the national rate of minus 0.6 percent.

A recent report by the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia predicted that in the next century Queensland would become the country's California, with Australia's largest population and economy. Queensland's unemployment rate, though high, recently dropped in one month from an above-the-national-average 11.2 percent to 10.1 percent.

"Goss has been a good and effective leader for a state that's performing economically well ... and the opposition was divided," says Gerard Henderson, head of the Sydney Institute, a privately funded think tank.

Goss's conservative competitors, the rural National Party's Bob Borbidge and the Liberal Party's Joan Sheldon, could have united against Goss in a coalition to bring him down, but never did.

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The Liberal Party also has come under fire in recent weeks for a television ad that took a page out of American-style, hard-ball campaigning. The ad featured a smashed portrait of an attractive young woman; a picture of the man who killed her after getting out of prison on an early-release program; her grieving parents; and a commentator warning that responsibility for her death lay with the ruling party.

This shades-of-Willie-Horton campaign technique was designed by an American political consultant for the Liberal Party in a bid to turn around Ms. Sheldon's poor ratings. It didn't work. Goss won handily.

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