Prime Minister Kevin Rudd admits he’s had his differences with Peter Beattie but says the former Queensland premier will make a great federal member.
Mr Rudd has visited Beenleigh, south of Brisbane, to formally announce Mr Beattie as the new Labor candidate for the Liberal-held seat of Forde.
“I’m Kevin, I’m from Queensland and I’m here to help,” he said. “His name’s Peter, he’s from Queensland and he’s here to help as well.”
Mr Rudd admitted he and Mr Beattie had “had the odd stoush” over their political careers.
“That’s life in the Labor party,” Mr Rudd said, adding any past criticism was “water off a duck’s back”.
“What really matters is standing up for the great state of Queensland,” he said.
“What unites us as a team are our strong values.”
Mr Rudd said Mr Beattie, who was premier from 1998 to 2007, had taken unemployment from 8.5 per cent to 3.8 per cent.
Mr Beattie said he and his wife Heather moved into his brother’s house in the Forde electorate on Thursday.
“If I am fortunate enough to be elected as the member for Forde I will be buying and moving into the electorate immediately,” he said.
“I believe in being part of the electorate.”
Mr Beattie said one of the reasons he is running is because he wants to see Queensland get a fair go.
“If Tony Abbott wins this election we’ll have wall-to-wall LNP from one end of Queensland to the other,” he said in Beenleigh.
“That’s just not fair and it’s just not good for Queensland.”
He thanked Mr Rudd for inviting him to run and said he looked forward to being an “energetic voice” for Forde and “a pain in the neck” when it came to standing up for his state.
In the past, Mr Beattie had called for Mr Rudd not to contest the federal Labor leadership against Julia Gillard.
He now says it’s probably good Mr Rudd didn’t take his advice.
“I am delighted to see this election is a contest,” Mr Beattie said.
“Elections are about the battle of ideas. I’m delighted he didn’t accept my advice.
“He often doesn’t and I think it’s probably in the interests of Australia that he didn’t.”
Mr Rudd, who has criticised the use of leadership “captain’s picks” to select Labor candidates, said the choice of Mr Beattie had been a matter for the Labor party organisation.
But he had telephoned Mr Beattie in the United States several days ago to canvass his interest in running for Forde.
“I don’t think it’s any great mystery we have here an enormous asset to the Labor party,” Mr Rudd said.
Mr Beattie said he would stay full term if Labor lost government and was “happy to be a humble backbencher”.
“As all of you know, I have been humble all my life and that humility will continue,” he joked.
Mr Beattie said he wasn’t taking victory in Forde for granted, declaring himself the “underdog”.
“I have to prove myself to the people of Forde,” he said, adding his working class upbringing allowed him to understand the plight of those in the electorate doing it tough.
Mrs Beattie, who once said she’d kill her husband if he returned to politics, supported his decision.
“We had some discussion about it and I agreed with Peter that we needed to put Australia first,” she said.
“That’s why I’m happy to support him and support the prime minister.”
Mr Beattie said he’d been “terrified” when he broached the subject with Heather, who once threatened to measure him for a coffin if he ever ran again.
Mr Rudd thanked Des Hardman, who was Labor’s endorsed candidate in Forde, for stepping down to let Mr Beattie run and give the party a better chance at winning.
“He’s put together a strong team here locally, he’s worked for more than a year, he’s put together the foundations which Peter will now be able to draw upon,” he said.
Mr Rudd said he had not spoken with any other former Labor premiers like Mike Rann, Steve Bracks or Geoff Gallop about running in federal seats elsewhere in the country.
Liberal National Party member for Forde, Bert Van Manen, attacked Mr Beattie’s record as premier.
“That record has led to the issues we see today for the constituents of Forde with high power prices, high water prices, lack of infrastructure and any number of other issues,” he told reporters.
Mr Van Manen said Labor had stabbed Mr Hardman in the back by endorsing “Johnny-come-lately” Mr Beattie, proving it was only interested in staying in power.
“I’ve got a simple message for the people of Forde. I wasn’t parachuted in,” he said.
“He (Mr Beattie) has had no contact with this electorate for at least the last six years when he has been in various roles overseas.
“He’s only moving into the electorate to create the perception he has a tie to the community.
“As a local I understand the issues that are affecting the people of Forde and those are jobs and the cost of living.”
ANALYSIS: KAREN MIDDLETON REPORTS