VALE: The Queensland Liberal Party 2008
Posted by Possum Comitatus on June 14, 2008
The QLD Nationals are poised to get their biggest break since Luke Shaw was awarded jury duty.
No matter what the outcome or even the form of the proposed merger of the National and Liberal Parties in Queensland the Liberal Party loses big-time.
There is little doubt that the Liberal Party will merge with the National Party in Queensland. However, this marriage of convenience will leave a legacy of devastation, fragmentation and recrimination that has Labor supporters salivating and really that is no change from where the QLD Liberal Party currently are right now.
The Liberals in Queensland have always been the National’s horse-trading mates, but frankly the Nationals are far better at it. From a National Party perspective the merger is the corollary of the Liberals’ situation; for the Queensland Nationals any form of merger is a no lose situation because at worst it neutralises a huge threat and at best it harnesses a stronger urban brand that resonates with inter-state migrants.
With the increased education and urbanisation of Queensland, the traditional demographics of the National Party have receded to the point that winning the 1983 election in their own right, through a helpful Gerrymander, can now be seen as their political high-water mark. Since that time Queensland Liberals have drifted to the further to the right, re-forming the coalition on National Party terms and performing a support role during the short-lived Borbidge/Sheldon government 1996-1998.
Since Queensland has adopted an optional preference electoral system, divided conservatives have discovered that the fragmentation of non-Labor vote combined with high preference exhaust rates have hurt them at the ballot box. The simplistic solution has been for the conservatives to form One Big Party (the Pineapple Party) to challenge Labor. The gorilla in the room is that philosophically the Liberals and the Nationals represent entirely different constituencies. Deep down the National Party thinks its everyone’s god-given right to chain-clear land with D11 Bulldozers, that sits very awkwardly with urbane, educated blue-blooded Liberals. A coalition left wriggle-room, a single party forms one big target either way.
Many Liberals have already formed a silent merger with the Queensland Labor Party. This may sound impossible, yet populist moderate Labor leaders, Beattie and now Rudd and Bligh have attracted the moderate, small “l” liberals in Queensland for over a decade. Votes and political donations have flowed freely, even if formal party membership hasn’t. The official Liberal Party remnant in Queensland is bankrupt financially and electorally gutted (8 out of 89 seats). That it is acquiescing to merge with the Queensland National Party shows that it really is just the equivalent of the NSW-right faction of the Liberal Party led by David Clarke. Liberals in other states simply would not recognise the Queensland distortion of a party that has purged internally to the point that it only has two neo-National Party factions anyway.
Winning state government is academic to the current Queensland conservatives. The motivations here are about securing opposition positions and status for at least the next 5 – 8 years (current, plus 1-2 more terms). Troy Buswell in the WA gets a deservedly hard time for sniffing seats, but at least he shows an interest in them! The Queensland Liberals aspire at their most optimistic to winning back blue-ribbon metropolitan seats such as Clayfield (think Vaucluse, Toorak, Cottesloe) that really are amazingly and consistently Labor held.
The so-called Liberal Lord Mayor of Brisbane City, Cr Campbell Newman, this week introduced a Tax and Spend Budget that any old-school Keynesian would be delighted with. Cr Newman won re-election in March this year under a personality brand of “Can Do” Campbell that treated the Queensland Liberal Party with the anonymity it deserves. For a Queensland conservative, or any of the national Liberal oppositions for that matter, he did have the novelty of actually having some policies.
It is the abject laze of the Queensland Liberals to formulate policy combined with the sustained, most appalling electoral performance of any Liberal Party (okay, Kim Campbell Canada 1993 was a star, but that was just the one time) that has left them formally abandoning Liberal Party principles and joining the National Party. This will create a vacuum of moderate conservatives in Queensland the equivalent of the DLP to the ALP through the 60s and 70s. On that basis, we are not even halfway through this cycle of Labor dominance. Minor right-of-centre fringe parties and independents as well as the Labor Government will be the beneficiaries of this looming merger disaster. Bring it on!
QLDNATHATER can be contacted at
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