Come gather ’round people

Owing to various distractions, moves towards a merger of the Queensland Nationals and Liberals have gone under-reported on this site. This is just as well, as I might otherwise have joined the large number of writers and critics who prophesised with their pens that the move would fail. It appears instead to have built unstoppable momentum following yesterday’s constitutional conventions of both parties, smartly symbolised for the cameras by the removal of partitions between the separate Nationals and Liberal meetings. The Nationals, and in particular their state parliamentary leader Lawrence Springborg, appear to have succeeded in steamrollering senior Liberals’ concerns that the new Liberal National Party would amount to a Nationals takeover of the Liberals. The Liberal state council last week defied the result of a party plebiscite to announce the convention would be postponed to allow time to negotiate a better outcome, but this was scotched by a court ruling that their sons and their daughters were beyond their command. The sticking point as far as the state council and the federal party (which must still confirm the new arrangement) were concerned was the presidency of the merged party, which yesterday’s joint convention decided by weight of numbers in favour of Nationals president Bruce McIver. This had been seen as too much to ask given that the Liberals were conceding to the Nationals a party structure that over-represented rural and regional areas, in time-honoured Queensland style. While recently elected Liberal state president Mal Brough is maintaining the rage by declaring he will not join the new party, Brendan Nelson and federal director Alan Stockdale can now be heard denying the presidency will prove a deal-breaker. Springborg has thus emerged with greatly enhanced prestige at the head of a united conservative force without precedent in Queensland history (CORRECTION: Thanks to those in comments who have noted the two short-lived precedents for Queensland conservative unity early last century), facing a fourth-term Labor government whose old road is rapidly agein’.

Local comment from Andrew Bartlett and Mark Bahnisch.

UPDATE (30/7/08): An excellent analysis from Andrew Fraser of The Australian, who like Mal Brough foresees trouble once the blush of the honeymoon wears off.

UPDATE 2: Another good analysis from the The Piping Shrike. Note that both good analyses sound less rosy for the LNP than my own.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

87 comments on “Come gather ’round people”

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  1. Amalgamation between the Liberals and Nationals is certainly not something thought up by Springborg, it was on the agenda in 1976.

    “The State election in 1974 had given the Coalition a massive majority, with 69 of the 82 seats. The National Party had 39 seats, the Liberals 30, Labor held 11, while there were 2 independents. During 1976 significant differences between the Coalition partners became evident. For example, the Liberals initially opposed the Premier’s policy of abolishing death duties, and that became an issue in the by-election in the safe Liberal seat of Clayfield (contested by the National Party as well as by the ALP). The Courier-Mail reported on 5 June that disunity was so much of a problem that the Nationals and Liberals could not even agree on a date for a joint meeting to discuss Coalition disunity. Later in June the Nationals rejected a proposal for amalgamation of the two parties. (Courier-Mail 26 June) The new Liberal Leader Mr Knox suggested the parties would eventually amalgamate but it could take 10 to 15 years. (Courier-Mail 8 August). The Liberal Party voted to oppose the Nationals in selected seats. (Courier-Mail 3 October)”

  2. With due respect to Poll Bludger, I must disagree with this statement:

    “Springborg has thus emerged with greatly enhanced prestige at the head of a united conservative force without precedent in Queensland history …”

    There IS a precedent to this merger, from the 1920s, when the Nationalist Party (the predecessor of the Libs) and the Country Party merged to form the Counrty and Progressive National Party, commonly known as “Country-National”.

    It had one Premier, Arthur Edward Moore, who ruled 1929-1932. This was the only period from 1915 to 1957 when Labor was out of power.

    I’m not too sure why the party split soon after, but there IS a precedent for the LNP.

  3. The hurdle for the LNP is the dominance of the Nationals. Look at the way the 2004 election panned out when Quinn was campaigning with Springborg.

    “The Nationals and the Liberal Party were united as rarely before, agreeing to reject nominations that would produce three-cornered contests. This was a policy effectively forced on the parties by optional preferential voting and the likelihood that many voters would not vote for a full slate of candidates. There was some dispute between the parties over the allocation of candidates to some seats, particularly the running of National rather than Liberal candidates in areas that might have been more supportive of a Liberal candidate. Why were the Liberals not contesting Southport, Broadwater or Burleigh on the Gold Coast, asked one journalist. He went on to question the decision to keep the Liberal Party out of the Brisbane seats of Kurwongbah, Logan, Springwood or Redlands, making the point that such areas were far more likely to be sympathetic to Liberal than to National policies.(17)

    The early stages of campaigning saw the two party leaders, Lawrence Springborg (NPA) and Bob Quinn (LP), campaigning togetherthe modern-day odd couple, as they were described.(18) This was criticised, partly because photographs seemed always to place the leaders in a rural setting, but largely because it tended to take Quinn away from those areas where his party needed to win seats if it were to rebuild its parliamentary presence. Media criticism also spoke of the Liberals being unable to stake out a different policy stance to that of the Nationals.(19)”

  4. Not just one precedent but two, as I mentioned in an earlier comment. There’s the Country and Progressive National Party, which formed in the 1920s and split up in the 1930s, and a second shorter-lived amalgamation in the 1940s (also, I _think_, called something like ‘Country-National’).

  5. B. S. Fairman @52, read it again. The death _penalty_ was abolished by a Labor Government in Queensland in the 1920s. What Steve correctly referred to was that Bjelke-Petersen wanted to (and, in fact, did) abolish death _duties_, something completely unrelated.

  6. 57 – Sorry, I misread that. Must have been late at night. Of course, Joh got rid of the death duties, considering many of his supporters were older and therefore more likely to croak.

  7. The LNP is good news for the Qld Nats in the short and longer terms. It’s also good news for the Qld Libs in the short and longer terms.

    The main losers in the short-term are the Qld ALP, and in the longer-term the Nats from other states.

    In the short-term the two parties have the opportunity to win the next Qld election. It’s far from certain, but they stood buckly’s before this. Labor only had to say “But who will be premier if you win?” anytime any bad news came out.

    The Queensland Nats see themselves as the major conservative party in terms of numbers and ability, but they also know demographically they are on the decline, and to win the election they need the Libs to pick up seats. But (a) they don’t want the Libs to pick up too many seats because then the Libs would be the major party, and (b) they don’t trust the Libs to pick up any seats because they think they are clearly incompetant and too involved with internal factionalism. Problem solved.

    So they win, and I’m sure they had no problem putting the Liberal name first, partly because they think the Liberal brand is more attractive to suburban swinging voters.

    The Qld Libs win because maybe the Nats can sort out the factionalism of the Libs and get them focussed on the task of the election. And they win in the longer term, because the new party is part of the Federal Libs (not merely “affiliated” as is the case with the Fed Nats) – it is a strange form of winning, but in effect all the Qld Nats just joined the Federal Liberals.

    The losers are the NSW, Vic and WA Nats. Their largest (or second largest – I’m not sure of the rankings between NSW and Qld) state just left the party.

    Now the Federal Leader of the Nats is a member of the Liberal Nationals and the Deputy Leader is a member of the Country Liberals. The party room is now: 9 Nationals, 5 Liberal Nationals and 1 Country Liberal.

    And Barnaby Joyce remarked somewhere the other day that he might just drop in on the next Liberal leadership ballot.

  8. B.S. Faiman, the issue of old age is just the reverse of the inference you draw. The burden of Death Duties fell, of course, on the younger beneficiaries or the widow of the deceased.
    The Queenland Nationals led Australia in abolising death duties. In a subsequent by-election the National Party Candidate, Mike Evans, went very close to capturing the blue ribbon Brisbane seat of Clayfield from the Liberals whose cabinet ministers had voted unanimously to retain the cruel death tax.

  9. Not a lot has been said about how the new LNP’s opponents are faring. South-east Queensland and the regional centres riding the resources boom are not coping well with growth and the polls suggest voters are blaming the Bligh Government. The key to the LNP’s success will be whether it can tap into that urban-based discontent and pick up seats in Brisbane. This is not an impossible feat, even with a Nat as leader. Indeed, the Rob Borbidge-led coalition did it in 1995, managing to fatally wound the government of Wayne Goss, the most popular premier in the country at the time.

  10. Craig, Nine seats won from Labor on that occassion but a few more than that are required next time. Borbidge was very strong in policy development though something which the Borg has never shown any interest in so far. With a base of Clayfield and Moggill only as their starting point I think they have too much to do in too short a time period to win next time around. But it will be much tougher and nastier than the last couple of elections.

    The other thing against the Pineapple Party is that they have voted against most of the infrastructure programs, council amalgamations etc and have no record of progress to hang their hat on.

  11. Steve, remember that the councillors who were most successful in the March local government elections were those who ran on a broad anti-development platform, with the exception of Campbell Newman and the Libs in Brisbane, of course. I agree the LNP has a lot to do on policy and perhaps it is too big an ask, particularly given Springborg’s record of creating a snowstorm of press releases and calling them new policy.

  12. 61 – Surely, the people who inherit from the elderly passing on are mostly their children, who are more likely to be middle aged at least. Someone in their 80’s is most likely to leave stuff to those in their 50’s or 60’s. So it is not a “young” person issue really (You’re not going to see 20 somethings in the street over death duties so to speak).

    Plus the people planning on dying are often concerned too.

  13. There may be a greater possibility of (populist?) independents running in regional and rural seats with the amalgamation of the conservatives parties as the amalgamation may give the impression that there’s greater policy space for independents.

  14. 66 Craig, but the standout for me was the vote on purified water in Toowoomba forced on the Mayor by Howard who believed exactly what you just argued. To have the National candidate win the plebiscite by leading the no vote three weeks before the state election and then lose the seat of Toowoomba North in the state election shows that weird things can and do happen.

    Similarly, I think the whole vision of Springborg has been to fulfill his dream of uniting the Queensland conservative forces irrespective of the political damage it could cause. He is like a dog repeatedly chasing a car and now that he has caught it, where to from here?

    He has had years to develop alternative policies and if one reads the offering at which he took to the last election and lost they are just a grab bag of slogans and nonsense that are disjointed and incoherent. I seem to remember he has always blamed the Liberal Party for the election losses whereas I have always seen his two losses as being expected because of his lack of preparation in the policy he took to those elections.

    The only thing that has ever stuck in my mind about Springborg is that he wants to ‘name and shame criminals’. That’s nice but I have no idea what that means what good it will do for anyone or why he repeats it so often. I doubt whether too many other voters have a clue as to what he is on about either. He just does not seem to lead a team that will work hard to offer something better for Queensland.

  15. Oh Dear, in his first major speech since the marriage on Saturday Springborg has confirmed our worst fears.

    Instead of explaining how he was going to fix the hospital system, fix the education system, deal with daylight saving, fix traffic congestion in the South east corner or indeed win the next election he chose to borrow a press release that could have been written and presented by the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to Shadow Minister for Sustainability and Multiculturalism, Elmes and presented it in a speech to the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce.

    I’m sure that he doesn’t announce big policy decisions because he he hasn’t dreamt any up yet. It is almost equally certain that if he can’t do better than this then his next election campaign will implode just like the last two he conducted, the only difference being that he has not got the Liberals to blame for failure next time. Had he sent Elmes to the function on his behalf he could have had an hour or two to begin work on his major policies.

  16. The way the bookies see it at present.

    OPPOSITION Leader Lawrence Springborg has burst back into the election market with bookies after the merger of Queensland’s conservative parties.
    Betting agency Lasseters has put the new Liberal National Party at $3 to win the next state election due before September next year.

    The Bligh Labor Government is still a clear favourite at $1.33 but the successful merger convention at the weekend has shortened the odds for conservative punters.

    Lasseters sports betting manager Gerard Daffy yesterday said the current political landscape was very different to the failed merger attempt which blew the price for Mr Springborg out to $21 before the 2006 poll.

    A Galaxy Poll conducted for The Courier-Mail last month showed that, on a two-party preferred basis, Labor led the (then) Coalition 52 per cent to 48 per cent, compared with 61 per cent to 39 in February.,23739,24098338-3102,00.html

  17. Tony Koch has thrown a curly one into the Borg’s camp. Is he going to name a Shadow Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs in his reshuffle of the deck chairs next week? Indeed, is there anyone in his team who could begin to handle the job?

    This is another area that the Borg likes to meet with stony silence. Is the Borg just going to transcribe the policies of the Government or is going to produce some alternative policies of their own? I don’t think I’ll be holding my breathe for Springborg being able to come up with a blueprint in this area somehow.,25197,24110321-5006786,00.html

  18. Tony Koch understands policy nuance brilliantly, he’s the leader in Queensland MSM political analysis. He will ensure that the new LNP specify policy across all areas particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs where the National Party had an attrocious record. I doubt Springborg will be able to fob off an experienced journo such as Koch. The next few days and weeks will tell.

  19. “the Labor Party won a majority of seats on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts. Labor has maintained this position at subsequent landslide victories in 2004 and 2006.”

    I’d query that one Antony. On the Sunshine Coast, Pineapple Party hold Noosa, Kawana, Caloundra, Maroochydore and Independent holds Nicklin.

  20. Labor’s outstanding success on the Gold Coast really has been the icing on the cake for them since 2001. Even with Howard getting hammered in Queensland last year, the three federal seats stuck with the Libs by big margins, so there’s nothing here that suggests it’s the sort of area where Labor would be even competitive. Yet they hold all but three of the local state seats. Are the Labor members down there a well-liked hard-working bunch, or is it really just that the Liberals are that hopeless?

  21. MDMC, the Gold Coast is going to be a great contest at the next state election.

    The proposed redistribution has changed a few of the seats on the Gold Coast for the next state election too.

    Two LNP seats are on a thin margin and three ALP seats .

    Gold Coast Marginal Seats Old Boundaries:

    2.2% Currumbin (LNP)

    2.5% Robina (LNP) (Abolished in redistribution, renamed Mermaid Beach)

    2.9% Mudgeeraba (ALP)

    3.1% Gaven (ALP)

    5.2% Broadwater (ALP)

    Gold Coast Marginal Seats New Boundaries:

    2.2% Currumbin (LNP) (Jann Stuckey)

    2.7% Mermaid Beach (LNP) (Ray Stevens)

    2.7% Mudgeeraba (ALP) (Di Reilly)

    3.0% Gaven (ALP) (Phil Gray)

    6.6% Broadwater (ALP) (Peta-Kaye Croft)

    Safer Gold Coast Seats:

    Southport ALP 9.1% ALP 8.0% ( Peter Lawlor)

    Burleigh ALP 8.3% ALP 8.8% (Christine Smith)

    Surfers Paradise LNP 12.0% LNP 12.1% (John-Paul Langbroek)

    Albert ALP 17.0% ALP 13.8% (Hon. Margaret Keech) – is the only minister from the Gold Coast region.

  22. All in all it would appear the Gold Coast will be the same or not much different after the next election with both sides having the ability to pick up a couple or lose a couple depending on how things pan out.

  23. I have not heard whether Ray Stevens has joined the LNP. He may be one who would be prepared to run as an Independent Liberal and survive in the event of an LNP implosion during the next election.

  24. oops, forgot to include the new seat of Coomera that takes in the Eastern part of the Albert electorate it is nominally safe ALP at 8.5%.

  25. Hi Antony Green,

    I am aware that a savvy young good looking female Lawyer (And former Student Union President) is considering running for Mount Ommaney for the Qld State Election for the LNP. This is my electorate. There is also chatter that Julie Attwood, the ALP Sitting member might pull the pin. Do you think the LNP could snatch the seat? The Liberals gained an 8% in the Jamboree Ward that is in Mount Ommaney at the Council election. Did the redistribution affect Mount Ommaney? I would like to know your thoughts?

  26. To Steve,

    Your comment at 10:47am reveals that you do not understand about the LNP Merger. I am an LNP member. The Liberal Party of Queensland and the National Party of Queensland no longer exist. All former party members automatically become LNP members. Ray Stevens has no option and same goes for other idiots like George Brandis etc, Mal Brough’s comment that he would not be joining the LNP was incorrect, what he meant to say is that he will cancel his membership and goodbye Mal, you tosser. Move interstate you twit.

  27. Good on ya Moose, a week is a long time in politics and it seems the euphoria is wearing off. Tell your friend to run in Mount Ommaney and get the 8% -it should be fun but don’t overspend the budget.

  28. Steve, the ALP are going down at the next election. The Borg is unstopable. Resistance is futile. Captain Bligh is cruising for a bruising.


    not going as good for the LNP as many predicted

    “The survey, conducted by Galaxy Research last week when non-Labor supporters were still celebrating, has revealed that the LNP is polling lower than its pre-merger days.

    The survey of 800 Queenslanders, taken on Wednesday and Thursday, showed that the LNP had not cashed in on its amalgamation celebration last weekend.

    If an election was held now, Labor – which has won four elections on the trot since 1998 – would lose some seats but would again cruise to victory and officially give Anna Bligh the Premier’s job she inherited from former boss Peter Beattie.

    Primary support for the Bligh Government is 44 per cent, up one percentage point from a pre-merger poll conducted by Galaxy in June.

    Support for the new LNP is 40 per cent – a drop from 42 per cent in the June poll.

    On a two-party preferred basis, Labor holds a six-point lead, 53 per cent to 47 per cent.

    Again, that was an improvement for Labor from the 52-48 mark in June.

    In the preferred premier stakes, Ms Bligh maintained a massive lead over LNP leader Lawrence Springborg.

    It was a 23-point margin in June and remained that way last week, despite the widespread fanfare of Mr Springborg finally achieving his dream of a united conservative force.

    Both leaders lost two points (53-30) from a month ago, with uncommitted voters increasing from 13 to 17 per cent.”

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