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. This might be a silly question, but does this merger extend to Brisbane City Council and Campbell Newman? Just wondering, seeing as he gets occasionally talked up as the most senior Liberal left in office in the country.

  2. Bird of paradox, yes it does.

    Newman and his “Can Do Team” are listed as members of the LNP on its website:

    Incidentally, so are all the Qld Liberal federal members and Senators, which won’t make some of them all that happy. But Newman was on the “go to the convention” side of the argument last week, so presumably he’s in favour of it.

  3. Question:

    Will the Liberal National Party members in the Federal parliament attend the National Party room meetings, or the Liberal Party room meetings, or both?

    Or will they choose which one to attend based on their previous affiliation?

    Also, why doesn’t the webpage say Liberal National Party? All I see is LNP everywhere. Is it because they don’t want anyone to remember they used to be Nats and Libs? Is it like KFC, they don’t want you to recall that the food is fried? 😀

  4. I heard that apparently the LNP will be a division of the Liberal Party of Australia, but I expect that they will work the way the NT CLP does, being Liberals when they want and Nationals when they want. But that’s hardly a good way to go. After all, the CLP never had more than one MP in each house, so there was never an issue of the MPs disagreeing about which party to caucus with.

    On the contrary, there’s 7 LNP Senators and 13 MHRs. And if they are all Liberals on a federal level, there’s two big consequences:
    -The Leader of the Nationals is now a Liberal.
    -The Nationals have now got only 6 MHRs (Gippsland, Mallee, Riverina, Parkes, Calare, Cowper), 7 if they win in Lyne. That’s half the number they had 12 months ago.

  5. The new LNP still have to find some policies, which have not been in evidence in the last 10 years. There are a few obvious points of conflict eg daylight saving, recycled water. You still have in effect a country based party representing city.

    Where are the small “l” Libs going to go as the new party is a sharp move to the right?

    I would expect that the whole show would start off full of spin and promise but there are hard issues to sort through and agree on.

    I always thought the “Pineapple Party” was a possibility as the Libs are reportedly insolvent and thought all in all it is a better arrangement than previously as that was unworkable. But expect some very different competing factions within the new party. It is in effect a takeover by the Nationals.

    It will certainly present some new challenges to the Bligh Gov’t.

  6. Now the hard work needs to be done and the time wasted on infighting over the years could begin to tell whether there is time left to get their act together:

    “While Bligh has played down the prospect of an early election, the continuing electoral redistribution now isn’t her only available trigger. Voters didn’t choose Bligh as their premier at the last election, and they certainly didn’t elect any LNP members – so neither side has a mandate. Bligh and her listless Labor colleagues are desperate to fight the LNP on policy and leadership issues, and will either draw things out or call a snap poll if it improves their chances.”,25197,24086967-5006786,00.html

  7. Just a small point re the following comment: “Springborg has thus emerged with greatly enhanced prestige at the head of a united conservative force without precedent in Queensland history,…”

    The Qld conservatives were merged when they held government for a short time in the 30s if I recall correctly.

  8. An outcome of the merger is that there are 4 LNP senators with just less than 3 years left to serve and it may be more difficult to work out how these 4 senators are to be placed on the ballot (assuming they all want to stand again) representing a single party, as opposed to 3 senators being members of one party and the remaining senator a member of another party.

  9. Sacha,

    The deal apparently brokered was that the LNP Senate ticket would preselect the three former Libs in the top three spots.

    Barnaby Joyce, the apparent loser of this game of musical chairs, would then replace Ron Boswell as a casual appointment in the next term.

  10. Steve 12,

    Well analysis that they may either go full term or call an early election doesnt really tell us anything.

  11. The ‘rock’n’roll’ style launch of the LNP was so corny I nearly vomited.

    Without knowing the events leading to the rally, TV viewers would be forgiven for believing that Mr Sringborg had just been elected Emperor of Rome.

    Australia can do without the highly scripted, made-for-TV banner-waving and the corny little-child-tells-it-from-the-heart garbage that is so prominent in the US.

    Perhaps the LNP should concentrate on ironing out the deep ideological divisions which are the natural consequence of merging two differing political parties and two very differing sets of values. Internal LNP divisions will make internal ALP squabbles past and present look like CWA branch meetings (and yes I’ve been to one, well a regional conference actually, where I enjoyed tea and cakes but failed with the words to God Save The Queen… I know only the Sex Pistols version); these divisions will no doubt keep the LNP in opposition for some time.

  12. #12

    Given the draft boundaries appear to favour Labor I imagine Bligh would wait until the redistribution is finalised.

    Is there precedent for going to an election before a redistribution has been completed?

  13. The question of caucusing seems fairly important if there’s a Liberal leadership spill…..

    Anyone know how the QLD Libs fell between Turnbull and Nelson?

  14. Sacha @ 13, you’re right. The Queensland conservative parties merged in the 1920s, then split again in the 1930s, and then merged again and split again in the 1940s.

    It’s odd that this is apparently not being recalled, with people going back to the 1909 fusion of the non-Labor parties in the Federal Parliament for historical analogies.

    There was a merger in South Australia in the 1930s as well, forming the Liberal and Country League (LCL). A separate Country Party was launched anew in the 1960s and the LCL reverted to the name of Liberal Party in the 1970s. LCL rules allowed members elected to the Federal Parliament to choose whether they wanted to sit with the Country Party or the UAP/Liberals. Archie Cameron, at one time national leader of the Country Party, later walked out and joined the UAP (United Australia Party, forerunner of the Liberals) instead, without in any way affecting his LCL preselection. My guess would be that the Queenslanders will follow this precedent.

  15. Andrew Bartlett is right – Liberalism is effectively dead, but not only in Queensland. All they have done is embrace the reality of the road that John Howard pushed them down for ten years or more. Most Liberal Party politicians are no more liberal than Labor figures are socialists. And as I recall, about half of Wayne Goss’s cabinet sent their sons to Brisbane Grammar School…

  16. the question is what effect will this have on the other minor parties?
    Will the minor parties carve a share of the old liberal vote, or will that vote transfer straight to the new LNP.
    It is a whole new ballgame, and it will be very interesting how loyalities now lie

  17. It is a once in a generation opportunity for other parties to get a share of the votes of disgrunteled Libs.
    This vote is likely to go initially to minor parties, before eventually drifting back to the major parties.

  18. I may have it wrong but interpreting explanation by David Russell (LNP QC) under the constitution that was passed on Saturday (Unanimously by the old National Party and all bar a handful of people by the old Liberal Party) all state and council elected members of these previous parties become members of the merged entity (the LNP). If the member does not wish to do this they must resign and sit as an independent on the cross benches.
    At a federal level it becomes a bit more complicated. All elected members of the two previous parties become a member of the LNP. They can then decide who they wish to sit with in Parliament (Liberals or Nationals). If they don’t wish to be a member of the LNP (Sue Boyce I assume is such an example) they must resign and become and independent. In some cases this will save the Nationals federally because if there numbers are getting too low I would not be surprised to see people like Ian MacFarlane align himself with them to give the numbers.

  19. Fagin at 18

    Did you see any of Kevin Rudd’s rally and at the ALP conference?

    If you were there, no doubt, you would have projectile vomited

  20. 30 – Could a federal member resign from the LNP and join a different state branch of the Liberal party (or National Party)? Does the Liberal Party have provisions for international members and could that apply to a interstate member? Will the Members be branded LNP at the next federal election(which could be next year if a DD is on the cards)?

  21. More mutton dressed up as lamb. Treat it the same way…. roast it llllllloooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnnnggggggggggggggg & try add flavour!

  22. @34

    If sitting members decided to leave the new merged party and seek membership of a party branch in another State, then even if the party branch in that other State admitted them (which sounds unlikely to me–they don’t have to admit somebody as a member just because they apply, and in these circumstances the arguments against would be obvious) that wouldn’t stop the Queensland party endorsing candidates to run against them in their seats at the next election. I don’t think what you’re talking about is practical politics.

  23. So are any of Liberals that angry enough that they are going to be willing to sit as an independent? Or are they just going to huff and puff and then sit down?

  24. I’m still trying to track down the results of the 1972 Queensland general election as I think that could be the year the Nats won less votes than the Libs but still managed a majority of seats.

  25. “It is a once in a generation opportunity for other parties to get a share of the votes of disgrunteled Libs.” 28

    My, that takes me back, and shows my age.

    I still remember that throwaway line from Menzies after he’d got short shrift from the Kennedy White House. In answer to a query on whether he was disgruntled about the very short time with the President, he replied:

    “I’m not disgruntled. I’m perfectly gruntled!”

  26. This is the way the Liberals were treated in cabinet for years after they snuggled up to the Nationals.

    ” A state election was held in May 1972, in which the Country and Liberal parties received 42% of the vote and secured 47 seats; the Australian Labor Party, with 46% of the vote, only managed 33.

    After the election there was tension in the coalition as Chalk tried to increase the number of Liberal Ministers while the Country Party attempted to reduce the Liberal representation in Cabinet 15. The issue of daylight saving, as discussed below, almost caused a permanent fracture within the Country Party-Liberal coalition government.”

  27. My heart goes out to the ordinary members of either party who were against this merger. Although it had overwhelming support from the rank and file, it must be tough for some liberals to see the party of Joh Bjelke-Peterson absorb what was once an okay party. Good luck to the LNP I say, as a healthy opposition makes a good government. Glad I’m not in QLD though! HAHAHA

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