Home > Oz Politics > The LNP-ONP coalition heading for a train wreck?

The LNP-ONP coalition heading for a train wreck?

January 16th, 2017

With a Queensland election due in the next 12 months and the usual journalistic speculation about an early election, the LNP will soon be faced with the decision of whether to formalise its coalition with the ONP. At a minimum, that would mean an exchange of preferences. But, given that the LNP doesn’t look like winning a majority in its own right it will be difficult to avoid the question of a possible coalition government. I’ll offer the LNP the unsolicited advice that it would be better, both morally and in terms of long-term self-interest to lose honorably than to win with Hanson.

Obviously, Hanson is in the ascendant right now, a fact that has apparently been recognised with an invitation to Donald Trump’s inauguration (fact-check on this welcome). In Queensland, the issue has been sharpened by the recent defection to One Nation of LNP member Steve Dickson. Looking at the 2015 results for his electorate, I’d say that it’s quite likely that LNP preferences will end up deciding the outcome in the next election (that is, after Green preferences, the LNP will be behind both Labor and Dickson). This may be true in some Labor held seats also.

In these circumstances, the temptation to formalise the existing nod-and-wink deal will be great. But, there are some very big costs. Hanson draws on much the same electoral base as Palmer and Katter (and her own 1990s voters), and there is quite a bit of overlap in rhetoric. But, unlike Palmer and Katter, Hanson is an overt racist. That’s why the preference deals made in the 1998 election, over the objections of then-leader Rob Borbidge, were such a disaster. Another deal will cement the view of the LNP as being willing to chase the racist vote whenever it can see a momentary advantage in doing so. And this time, the federal Liberal and National parties, which steered clear of Hanson last time around, are equally implicated.

Of course, if you think as does William Bowe (Pollbludger) at Crikey, that it’s entirely clear that Hansonism is a more potent and enduring force than Katterism or Palmerism, it might be argued that the LNP has no alternative. Indeed,rightwing parties everywhere are facing this dilemma and most of them have chosen an alliance with (or, in the case of Trump) surrender to racism, rather than accept electoral defeat.

But the evidence suggests that the usually-sharp Pollbludger has called this one wrong. Scarcely a week has gone by without one of Hanson’s MPs or candidates making the headlines for all the wrong reasons, often leading to a hasty withdrawal of endorsement. And, in a repetition of the last go-around, Hanson has already alienated her core supporters, relying instead on dubious political operators who’ve made the Liberal party to hot to hold them. Last time it was David Oldfield, who got a cushy seat in the NSW Upper House for his trouble. Now it’s James Ashby (and, I guess, Dickson).

Given all this, I don’t see any reason for Hanson’s second go to last any longer than her first, or than Palmer’s. Rather, I think we’ll see the same history of defections and splits playing out in short order. Even if an LNP-ONP government were to secure a majority in Queensland, victory would be a poisoned chalice with a promise of years or decades in opposition to foolwo

I don’t know whether this analysis extends to the various demagogic parties of the right that have emerged in recent years. They mostly depend pretty heavily on individual leaders who are virtually certain, in the circumstances, to be pretty dubious characters. The general track record of such individual vehicles has been one where early success (if it happens) is followed in relatively short order by ignominious collapse. I hope the same is true this time around.

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  1. rog
    January 16th, 2017 at 16:05 | #1

    Both Trump and Hanson have successfully employed the same tactic ie racism wrapped up as welfare abuse and pc.

    Abbott skirted around it, saying that remote communities are ‘lifestyle choices’ not deserving of future funds. Trump ran with the birther story, also claiming that Obama benefitted from ‘affirmative action’. Hanson has a long record of claiming that aboriginal communities are receiving benefits not available to others.

    I don’t see how Australia can escape this wave of hatred.

    Outlets such as Breitbart are cleverly supporting the notion that ordinary citizens, quietly rallying in support of their nation against invasion, are being persecuted by violent leftists.

  2. derrida derider
    January 16th, 2017 at 16:41 | #2

    At this stage you’d have to favour Labor winning the overall election quite easily anyway, so perhaps the question is moot. But if ONP holds the balance of power in the new parliament and the LNP refuses a coalition with them this could put Labor in a very tricky position.

    Their best option in such a bad position would probably be to ask the LNP for their support for a minority government, or (depending on numbers) offer support for an LNP minority one – but both would put the LNP in a good position at the next election. This is, of course, an argument for the LNP to discreetly preference ONP (as they are) but not be interested in such a coalition – they actually gain tactically as well as strategically.

  3. Smith
    January 16th, 2017 at 17:14 | #3

    I disagree for multiple reasons.

    Queensland: last time, the Queensland Premier and Labor Party leader was Peter Beattie, a politician infinitely more talented than Annastacia Palaszczuk. Beattie’s home spun persona was very helpful in defanging ON

    Australia: last time, the Prime Minister and Liberal Party leader was John Howard, a politician infinitely more talented than Malcolm Turnbull. Howard was able to cajole the ON voters back inside the LNP tent by convincing them that he was sympathetic to their values and prejudices. Turnbull would never attempt that and would be laughed out of office if he tried.

    World. last time, Bill Clinton was in the White House and Tony Blair was UK PM. The world economy was booming and the only people who cared about Islamist terrorism were CIA analyst nerd types. It’s a totally different zeitgeist now.

  4. brad
    January 16th, 2017 at 17:22 | #4

    It’s looking likely that neither mahor party will form a majority. In thise case, one side will need at least an arrangement with ONP to form government, and will rely on their votes to pass legislation. An awful situation for Queensland.

  5. rog
    January 16th, 2017 at 17:45 | #5

    My impression is that the Trump invite was to the inauguration ceremony, which is open to the public. According to the media Malcolm Roberts has spent time in the US with team Trump, which would have rung bells with the media savvy Trump.

  6. Jim Rose
    January 16th, 2017 at 19:05 | #6

    50% of one nation preferences come from labour voters so presumably they will go back to labour. The issue is whether one nation on its own can win seats

  7. J-D
    January 16th, 2017 at 19:20 | #7

    brad :
    It’s looking likely that neither mahor party will form a majority. In thise case, one side will need at least an arrangement with ONP to form government, …

    That doesn’t follow. There is a non-zero probability that one or the other will choose to make some kind of arrangement with One Nation, but it’s wrong to call it a necessity.

  8. January 16th, 2017 at 20:55 | #8

    The French Front National has staying power, worse luck. Fortunately it seems unable to expand its appeal much beyond its already alarmingly large base, perhaps because the democratic parties have held the line against coalitions.

  9. Smith
    January 16th, 2017 at 21:12 | #9

    @James Wimberley

    The original core of the National Front were rusted on communist party voters. This might seem strange, but it was actually quite a natural move from the last hard core Stalinist communist party in Western Europe to another party of authoritarians with authoritarian policies. Most of those voters would have moved on by now, but like the PCF for generations, FN voting is a family ritual.

  10. Douglas Hynd
    January 16th, 2017 at 21:28 | #10

    WA is the next election cab off the rank. The performance there will be one to watch – though the presence of separate national and liberal parties will make for a different set of dynamics. My guess is the Nationals won’t be hurt because there vote is regionally concentrated and ONP votes seem to come from discontented outer urban electorates.

  11. D
    January 17th, 2017 at 00:57 | #11

    “…Senator Hanson said that she wouldn’t attend the inauguration as she has commitments to the party in Western Australia, with her team to make a trip west on Thursday.

    The senator’s One Nation party was given the green light on Monday as a political party in Western Australia ahead of the March state election.”

    So….that’s all BS.

    In QLD, there is no upper house so it is a ‘winner take all’ totalitarian/democratic state. LNP would be insane to formally meld with One Nation.

    As two separate entities, each with a high profile, they would easily knock out the sad-arsed neo-liberal ALP for a cumulative 50%+1. Then, assuming the LNP didn’t get more than 50% in its own right (quite unlikely since most people either hate the duopoly or are evenly split on supporting it), they would deal with the cross-bench the same as every other party does to form government.

  12. January 17th, 2017 at 01:59 | #12

    I’m puzzled as to why a party can’t be populist without being racist.

  13. jrkrideau
    January 17th, 2017 at 07:21 | #13

    @John Brookes
    I’m puzzled as to why a party can’t be populist without being racist.
    It probably can be. IIRC, the Bolsheviks were not racist in their early incarnations. I think it is more that a populist party seems to need a visible and easily identifiable enemy.

    Racism is an easy, albeit contemptible, out at the moment not to mention that most populist leaders currently polluting the earth seem racist. Also it usually is safer to attack marginalized racial or ethnic groups than somebody like the 1%ers who have money and political clout.

  14. brad
    January 17th, 2017 at 07:43 | #14

    @John Brookes
    Simple. Because racism tends to be the lowest common deniminator.

  15. Douglas Hynd
    January 17th, 2017 at 08:33 | #15

    D – evidence to date suggests that ALP will get about 50% of ONP preferences

  16. Jim
    January 17th, 2017 at 09:25 | #16

    The press (mainstream and otherwise) are perhaps more important than ever.

    Rather than reporting gossip and gotcha moments which incentivises short-term tactics over very short media cycles; what would happen if the press actually started asking questions like “could you please explain how your policies actually work?”. The nutcase would be exposed for what they are and the general level of mainstream politics might improve too.

  17. Paul Norton
    January 17th, 2017 at 10:23 | #17

    JQ:

    “Scarcely a week has gone by without one of Hanson’s MPs or candidates making the headlines for all the wrong reasons, often leading to a hasty withdrawal of endorsement. And, in a repetition of the last go-around, Hanson has already alienated her core supporters, relying instead on dubious political operators who’ve made the Liberal party to hot to hold them… Given all this, I don’t see any reason for Hanson’s second go to last any longer than her first, or than Palmer’s. Rather, I think we’ll see the same history of defections and splits playing out in short order. Even if an LNP-ONP government were to secure a majority in Queensland, victory would be a poisoned chalice with a promise of years or decades in opposition to foolwo

    “I don’t know whether this analysis extends to the various demagogic parties of the right that have emerged in recent years. They mostly depend pretty heavily on individual leaders who are virtually certain, in the circumstances, to be pretty dubious characters. The general track record of such individual vehicles has been one where early success (if it happens) is followed in relatively short order by ignominious collapse. I hope the same is true this time around.”

    This chimes with my own thoughts. Further, I think that this analysis can be generalised to the various demagogic parties of the right that we have seen thus far. They have been led by people who either don’t understand the need to build an enduring political organisation, don’t like the constraints that such an organisation could place on their own authority, or both. Also, they tend to attract cranks and malcontents who make poor raw material for an enduring political organisation. And they promote an anti-intellectual political culture and attract anti-intellectual political types, which means that they are incapable of the kinds of collective strategic discussions required for an enduring political organisation to grow and develop.

  18. Paul Norton
    January 17th, 2017 at 10:41 | #18

    It is worth comparing what is happening on Australia’s right and centre-right with what is happening on Australia’s left and centre-left. After last year’s Federal election I compared the primary votes of both Labor and the Greens with the votes obtained by their respective sister parties in the most recent legislative assembly elections in other advanced democracies. Both the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Greens are currently among the top three or four electoral performers in their respective global families of parties, and their combined primary vote is higher than the combined votes of most of their overseas counterparts. Further, there is no strong reason to believe that either, or both, are about to be afflicted by a left insurgency of either the Corbyn/Sanders variety within an existing party, or the SYRIZA/Podemos variety involving a new formation.

  19. Lt. Fred
    January 17th, 2017 at 11:03 | #19

    @John Brookes
    The media hates left-wing populism. There are only two conceivable forms of right-wing populism: the strutting arrogant caudillo or producerism – that is, hate the takers in the rich and the poor and worship the makers at the top and in the middle. Which is 90% racism or anti-semitism. The two are connected within Donald Trump.

  20. AlexJ
    January 17th, 2017 at 13:37 | #20

    I’m not convinced that we’ll see a PHON/Labor top two in Buderim, rather an LNP/PHON top two.

    Keep in mind that only about 10% of voters in the electorate voted for PHON or a similar party in the Senate in 2016, roughly in line with the proportion voting PUP in Buderim in 2015 (13%). So let’s set 13% as the likely starting point for PHON, before swings.

    I expect about a 30% of the electorate will continue to vote ALP/Green, with the Greens taking about 10% and Labor 20%. This is down a little from 2015, just on Sod’s Law principles.
    The Greens voters will mostly preference ALP>LNP>PHON; however we should expect about 10-15% to preference PHON and about 15-20% to preference the LNP.

    After the Greens are excluded I expect: PHON +1%, LNP +2%; ALP +7%

    The Labor voters should go about 2:1 LNP:PHON if instructed — and we now have compulsory preferences again, so they shall be instructed.

    Does Steve Dickson have a personal vote? Absolutely. But he’ll need to peel off about 20 percentage points from the LNP just to bring them below the Left. And there are few more rusted on than a Sunshine Coast LNP voter.

    Also: SD’s defection will be seen as a betrayal, which likely means that his opponents within the local branches of the LNP will now have control. I think it’s likely they’ll preference him below Labor, to send a message.

  21. John Quiggin
    January 17th, 2017 at 14:15 | #21

    @John Brookes

    Neither PUP nor Katter was/is racist, certainly not by comparison with the rightwing of the LNP and One Nation. That’s why, for example, there has been little or no controversy over Labor’s (so far unsuccessful) attempts to court the Katter Party.

    A question I haven’t thought about is how KAP will interact with One Nation.

  22. Ratee
    January 17th, 2017 at 15:37 | #22

    We all think about this too much. Trump has proven correct. This details of the issue will be forgotten and only the name will be remembered.
    All that’s needed is name recognition and vague feelings of identity with the psyche of the voter. There is no need for comprehensive or even coherent policy positions to win these voters and if there’s enough of them to swing elections, watch out!

  23. wilful
    January 17th, 2017 at 16:42 | #23

    John Brookes :
    I’m puzzled as to why a party can’t be populist without being racist.

    Nick XENOPHON

  24. Ken_L
    January 17th, 2017 at 18:45 | #24

    I wouldn’t get too impressed with Hanson’s purported invitation to Trump’s inauguration. Members of Congress get tens of thousands of tickets to distribute to whomever they like. I had a mate who went to Bill Clinton’s because he knew someone who interned for a member of the House.

  25. David Allen
    January 18th, 2017 at 14:27 | #25

    The LNP is already a trainwreck. It has been captured by stupidity,greed,criminality and ignorance. How can it ever be rescued given that the gatekeepers are the problem.

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