I’ve been meaning to post on the merger between the National and Liberal parties in Queensland, pointing out that it makes no sense to have two separate parties in permanent coalition, and expressing a bit of surprise that the local parties got their act together so quickly. Now, however, it’s all off.

This is amazing good luck for the Beattie government, which has made more than its share of mis-steps lately, although I think the main thrust of policies, raising services to a level comparable with other states, and pushing the “Smart State” slogan as a counterweight to the notorious anti-intellectualism of the Joh era (and for that matter, the Nicklin and Gair eras before that – it was a Labor government that cut the number of school years in Queensland, a decision that has only just been reversed), has been sensible.

Whatever the government’s problems, it’s hard to see Queensland voters going for a National-led coalition again> I’ll repeat what I said in 2004

In the case of Queensland, Labor has an advantage that does not seem to have been remarked on. The only plausible alternative government is a Liberal-led coalition, but for historical reasons, this isn’t on offer. In fact there are only three Liberals in Parliament and of these only one is running for re-election. Instead the Opposition is in effect the National Party (there are also the remnants of One Nation and assorted independents). Even though the Nationals have held office for most of the past fifty years, I don’t think we’ll ever see another National Party premier.

Assuming no merger, I thought in 2004 that it would

take three more elections for Labor to lose. The Liberals need one to become a credible party rather than a trivial joke, a second to become the leading opposition party, and a third to beat Labor.

Having won a few more seats, and with Labor looking ragged, you could just about have said that the first of these stages had been passed, until the fiasco of the last few days.

22 thoughts on “Jilted!

  1. As interesting as State govts are all Labor while the Feds are equally the opposite, you really wonder about the future of state govts here http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,19325740-1246,00.html?from=rss
    If Labor (states) are happy to handball health to the Feds, because they put it all in the too hard basket, you’d imagine the Feds would quickly ask the question- Why leave them with education? Clearly if health is the big monster challenge, you’d want education under your wing in order to make the necessary tradeoff cuts there. With the other biggy in Centrelink already under your wing, why would you need the States any longer? Starve them out and increasingly deal direct with amalgamating mega councils.

  2. PrQ,
    I think you may have missed a crucial difference here – the one between optional preferential and full preferential voting. I believe it explains why this made sense from a State election point of view but threatened the Federal voting.
    If we take a simple three cornered contest, with two of the parties in coalition and exchanging preferences (assuming the voters actually follow the preference sheet), under full preferential people voting for one of the parties in coalition would then put the other coalition party next and then the other party last. It does not matter which way the coalition partners are put – except to decide which of those parties wins the seat. In fact, because people like to be able to choose, it may boost the overall coalition vote and it allows the voters the chance to decide which shade of policies of the coalition parties they like.
    Under optional, as it is in Queensland, it changes. Voters can put a mark against one of the parties and then not the other, meaning that the vote exhausts immediately if the candidate is knocked out – costing the coalition parties votes if they have a two candidates. This means that it is critical that there are no three cornered contests where one of the parties is going to get less than 50% of the primary vote.
    This effectively removes from the voters the ability to choose which of the parties they like and it is all done as a deal behind the scenes – something I think the voters do not like as much and allows for at least the appearance of power-brokers running both parties.
    To me, at least, this is why the merger made sense from a state politics point of view – the deals as to who runs where could be done through the normal party processes, rather than in a back room somewhere removed from both sight and appeal.
    From a federal point of view, however, it would be likely to cost votes.

  3. Qld Libs climbing into bed with Qld Nats.

    Not a lot of genetic diversity there.

    Having shot themselves in the club foot, off they shamble toward political extinction, the Rodent’s rebuke still ringing in their ears. Oh the shame, oh the humiliation.

    BTW, re the abolition of states, perhaps Observa and SATP haven’t acquainted themselves with the Australian Constitution. I wouldn’t start buying brown shirts in anticipation of the arrival of Howard’s Gauleiters just yet.

    Moreover, Costello’s GST deal has made the states more independent of the Federal government since 1942.

    Here in Victoria, Bracks is playing Father Christmas to parents of school kiddies with an election-year giveaway. He’s using Costello’s bags of money to out-bribe the Briber-in-Chief John Howard.

    What a delicious irony.

  4. And you’d be wrong.

    I wanted it on everything.

    After all this time Katz still has the capacity to surprise the inattentive.

  5. AR, I mentioned optional preferential in my earlier post.

    Katz, you can blame me since I pushed hard for the exemption of food and had some influence on the Democrats at the time.

  6. Katz: I was speculating on John Howard’s innermost desires, not on how achievable they will be.

    I agree that giving the GST loot to the states (& thus the corresponding economic clout) does seem strange for a power centraliser. Costrello & Howard seem to be quite lax when it comes to discipling the states over their failure to cut state charges, the demise of which were the “payment” for recieving the GST revenue.

    Back to the Qld Nat/Lib merger. It certainly makes sense for the state branches. The National Party is a very democratic structure, & it won’t matter a hoot what Mark Vaile, Ron Boswell or any other politician thinks. The members run the party, the National Party has a huge membership in Queensland, the power lies with the ordinary people in the branches. They learned a lesson they will never forget when they bowed to John Howard over gun control.

    The Liberal Party is a very different matter, and it takes two to merger. Being the dominant brand federally, the Liberals in Queensland have always smarted over their more or less irrelevance in Qld. Their main tactic would appear to be relying on demographic change in south-east Qld to eventually give them the numbers to dominate progressive (or conservative if you like) politics in Qld.

    JQ: Your assessment that it will take 10 years (perhaps 12) for a change of government in Qld is unlikely to be disputed by any sober observer.

    The opposition parties are coming from waaaay behind, and have a lot of credibility to make up. Springborg has been doing a great job, unfortunarely for him/his party, he is doing it on his own, the rest of the Lib/Nat are more or less without talent.

    Beattie is meeting him halfway with a series of own goals, probably due to the ALP sitting members also being more or less talentless. However it will take more than the ALP putting it’s foot in it’s mouth for people to start voting Lib/Nat in Qld.

  7. Indeed, Steve, there are some spectacularly bad Labor members (two disgraceful absentees are gone, but there are probably others) , but the younger ones I’ve met are quite impressive. Unfortunately, they’re mostly in marginal seats.

  8. “…a decision that has only just been reversed.”

    Gosh, I didn’t know that! Can I come back and get my sixth year of high school now?

  9. Steve I agree that the Nats are a very democratic party. Their membership of about 12 000 versus approx 4 000 for the Libs is also impressive.

    But this strength is also a weakness. Local branch decisions to exchange preferences with One Nation in certain seats was a disaster and one (main) reasons why Borbidge left. And Borbidge had talent,

    Local decision making versus centralised strategy is always a tension.

    Any attempt to merge will simply see the emergence of splinter parties

  10. The problem with the Queensland Nationals and why independents and others can win their seats at will is well illustrated by the reaction of Jeff Seeney who was in Kingaroy today but still still managed to bag the ‘Blueprint for the bush’ which was released in Charleville today. Obviously without having taken the trouble to read the document before commenting, Jeff wrote on Springborg.com that ‘Beattie’s Bush Blueprint won’t fool anyone’.

    Unfortunately, the Blueprint fooled Jeff. I wouldn’t have thought that a 56 page document with some pictures included would have been too big an ask for a Deputy Opposition Leader to wade through but reading the document and reading Jeff’s response reveals that there is no match between the two documents.

    Perhaps he was tired and emotional after a week from self-inflicted hell or maybe he is a mindreader more than a serious reader but when an important document is released a considered reponse from those who are paid well to respond to such documents is not too much to ask, I would suggest.

  11. Well you got that one right Steve at the pub, as far as the Queenland National Party leadership is concerned. On Monday they all vote for a takeoverbid from the Liberals without being able to see that it is a plan to get all the Nationals membership and assets transferred to the Liberals without a cent changing hands. By Thursday Labor is out selling an alternative to the Nationals “born to rule the Bush propaganda” and they can’t be bothered reading the document. No wonder they are in big trouble and others look far more appealing to voters.

  12. “Starve them out and increasingly deal direct with amalgamating mega councils.”

    Observa, that’d be fine, except for the fact that State Government has all power over local government.

  13. I agree with the Steves (at the pub and elsewhere) and could not see the benefit to the Nationals in merging with the Liberals.

  14. JQ is right – its hard to imagine another National Party Premier in QLD – I know lots of people who still remember Joh Bjelke Petersen and the “Fitzgerald years” – and because of him and that period will NEVER vote conservative.

    On another topic, I am a Qleenslander but I (temporarily) live in Sydney and I was interested how the press down this way reported the merger as being an example of “Queensland parochialism”. Apparently the QLD branches of the parties were ignoring the good of the coalition in the rest of the country, by indulging in a merger which threatened John Howard (The speed with which Dear Leader killed the merger proves the threat was real).

    Does anyone else think the Coalition is getting scared down in Canberra?

  15. It’s probably not the most important consideration but the merger was going to result in a party called the “New Liberals”. I would have thought that the name “National Liberals” would make more sense, although it would be a silly name if it was only a Queensland party. So perhaps they could have tried a more paradoxical name like “The Free Market Socialists” or some such coalition of ideals.

  16. Plenty of Queenslanders remember the Joh years. This is what gives the National Party the votes they have today. For nothing recently has given cause for anyone to vote for them.

    It must really stick in the craw of the wankocracy that people who work & produce something for Australia actually PREFER to vote for the national party.

    The bludgeocracy may never understand what motivates people who actually WORK for a living, as opposed to have it handed to them.

  17. Thank heavens that Queensland’s horny-handed sons of toil had champions in public life of the status of Don Lane and Brian Austin. These heroes and martyrs of the productive classes were prepared to go to gaol in the cause of keeping the bludgeocracy out of government, and preferably on their backs doing their bit for Queensland’s much-boasted “leisure industry” made famous by Four Corners’ “Moonlight State”.

    I guess the only small regrets were that Russ Hinze, Minister for Everything failed to gain due recognition for his public service by dying before he achieved due recognition in the form of a public trial. Ex-Premier Bjelke-Petersen also modestly avoided the limelight when he withdrew from public life rather than serve a reputation-enhancing stretch at Her Majesty’s pleasure.

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