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Background to the return to politics of Sallyanne Atkinson, former Lord Mayor of Brisbane.

ELLEN FANNING: Last year she was a blue ribbon Liberal Leader, today she's touting the streets of the working class Brisbane suburb of Inala for votes. Sallyanne Atkinson, the former Brisbane Lord Mayor has decided she does want a Federal political career after all. For years during her last political incarnation she dismissed any suggestions of running for Canberra, but now a seemingly more down-to-earth Mrs Atkinson wants to wrest the seat of Rankin from Federal Small Business Minister, David Beddall. Sallyanne, as she likes to be called, needs only a three-and-a-bit swing to begin a new political career. We'll hear from Mrs Atkinson shortly, but first, this background report from Anthony Fennell in Brisbane.

ANTHONY FENNELL: In early 1991 Sallyanne Atkinson was a darling of the Liberal Party, an articulate, photogenic politician who'd won gold for the Party at two greater Brisbane Council elections. On 23 March she once again faced the polls with a relaxed, some said complacent, air but her subsequent drubbing at the hands of an unknown former Catholic priest sent her political career into a tail spin. Like that other one time Liberal shining light, Nick Greiner, she suddenly went from rooster to feather duster. The reason most often given for her surprise defeat was her perceived extravagance. It's a matter of public record that Sallyanne Atkinson had gold taps installed in her council office, that she took 17 overseas trips in her six years a Mayor, that she spent $205,000 on receptions and PR events in her last nine months in office and that she gave herself a $51,000 tax-free allowance, from which she bought clothes at Bloomingdales and Saks on 5th Avenue. During her time as Mayor, Sallyanne has emphatically denied any desire to move into State or Federal politics. In fact she was completely dismissive of the idea, but just two days after her council defeat, when speaking to A.M 's Greg Walker, she did appear to soften her objections somewhat.

SALLYANNE ATKINSON: Well, I've never had any federal ambitions. They have all been given to me by people like yourself and by the political pundits. I have said again and again, that you know, I have no plans to have plans and I don't look ahead further than the job that I'm in at the moment and the working day ahead of me, and that's what I'm doing at this moment. I'm not conceding defeat in any sense at all.

ANTHONY FENNELL: If you are defeated, is a move to Canberra possible?

SALLYANNE ATKINSON: Oh, perhaps possible, not probable. I certainly ......

ANTHONY FENNELL: Well, how likely then?

SALLYANNE ATKINSON:Well, you know, I keep saying, I have no wish to go to Canberra. I have no plans to go to Canberra. I have no ambition to go to Canberra and at the moment I'm concentrating on the job I have to do today as the Lord Mayor of Brisbane.

ANTHONY FENNELL: Late last year, however, Sallyanne Atkinson hired a room at the Hilton in Brisbane to inform the media that she had finally made up her mind and would not be seeking a seat in Federal Parliament. But on Friday night all that changed. Over the weekend the Sallyanne Atkinson presented to the media was a grassroots political hopeful with a plain hairstyle, sensible clothes and a modest Daihatsu - none of the high-flying glitz in sight. But will the re-made image be enough to win over the working class voters of Inala? Political analyst, Dr John Warner.

JOHN WARNER: I think she'd certainly have a recognition factor working for and against her. We've also got to remember she was in a sense a very high profile Lord Mayor but she was also someone who was seen to be in office for a good time, for the travel and for other spoils. She's also perceived, as a result of losing the March 1991 council election, as something of a loser who didn't take advice from the Liberal Party, who decided to go it alone, and we're already getting signs from people in the electorate of Inala, part of which is a very strong working class area, that it may shore up support for the other guy. Not many people seem to know that David Beddall is the other sitting candidate, but they'll vote for the other guy.

ANTHONY FENNELL: So despite her high profile she could have some trouble trying to win that seat?

JOHN WARNER: I think so. I mean I think this wouldn't be her first choice if she was going for a seat now but, in a sense, some of the more easier conservative seats have already gone - Dixon for example - which she could have run for straight after her loss as Lord Mayor, has already now been taken by someone else.

ELLEN FANNING: Political analyst, Dr John Warner, and that background report from Anthony Fennell.