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Life becomes harder for Campbell Newman's reign

GIVEN that the Newman government's election in March last year was the biggest win in Australia's political history, there was always going to be a substantial swing back to the ALP over the LNP's first term.

But what should be a matter of concern for Campbell Newman and his party over the Christmas break is that the past few months -- which is when this Newspoll was taken -- have been dominated by the government's crackdown on bikies, for which it has always claimed there was popular support.

These poll results show that the government may have overcooked this particular goose. Few people are going to defend violent criminals, but there seems to be a sense that these new laws are unnecessary.

Most of the bikies who have been involved in criminal activities have been arrested under the old laws. The new laws have seen situations like five men arrested in a Sunshine Coast pub for having a beer together, despite them not wearing bikie colours or insignia.

The champion of the bikie laws has been 31-year-old Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie, who has become one of the most public faces of the government. His tough law-and-order stance may sound great rhetorically but the state's judges don't seem terribly impressed, and the way he bungled laws supposed to keep notorious child sex offender Robert Fardon in jail made him sound like a sheriff who talked tough but was firing blanks.

Some other frontbenchers such as Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney, Treasurer Tim Nicholls and Transport Minister Scott Emerson are all capable performers but, really, the perceptions of this government all come down to how Newman himself is performing.

In this light, the biggest worry for the LNP is Newman's seat of Ashgrove. Put simply, the size of the victory disguised the fact that the Premier is in a marginal seat and without a big swing such as the one the LNP enjoyed in March 2012, Newman was always going to have to spend time defending a marginal seat. He holds Ashgrove with a margin of 5.7 per cent -- this Newspoll shows a general swing against the government of 8 per cent.

The obvious way out is to find him another seat, but this is the sort of cynical political manoeuvre that voters hate.

Newman has enough of a majority not to worry about losing the next election, but he would be wise to remember the words of his father's old boss, Malcolm Fraser: life wasn't meant to be easy.