December 06, 2004 | Graham

Pineapple party fruit salad – internal research

Springborg’s Pineapple Party amalgamation concept ought to be fruit salad, according to leaked internal research. The report is by Toby Ralph, a top level Liberal Party operative who has been associated with every federal Liberal campaign since 1996 and was one of the team that masterminded the 1995 Queensland state election result. I’ve never run a serious campaign without consulting him (but no, he’s not the leak). The report says

…the process is extremely likely to be a catalyst that drives many current and potential voters away, thus utterly disastrous for the Coalition and suicidal for its political advocates.
Under no circumstance should Party leaders announce an ‘unresolved’ merger in the hope that people will tolerate disagreements that will eventually be resolved. This would backfire badly.

So, the Coalition parties are headed for the rocks, and Lawrence Springborg for hari kari.
How does Ralph come to this conclusion?
The research is qualitative and involved “street intercepts” of 82 people (44 women and 38 men) over a five day period in four separate locations. 25 voted Labor, 14 Liberal, 24 National and 19 wouldn’t (or couldn’t) say. This is too small for a valid quantitative sample, but more than sufficient for a qualitative group. It’s not finely calibrated, but it will give actionable answers. And part of what you get when you pay Ralph’s exorbitant fees is the knowledge that he brings from other similar research done for right of centre political clients.
From this group he found that only 26% thought that a merger would be more likely to help the coalition parties overcome their “differences”. Only 32% thought a merged party would be a “more…effective Opposition”. The merger at this point is not looking too good, but it gets worse.
When asked:

If these Parties merged to form a single Party and became the State Government, would they do a better or worse job than the current State Government?

57% said “less”. Only 21% thought they would a better job. These are horrendous figures, bearing in mind that 46% of the sample votes either Liberal or National.
Why these results? The verbatims say it all.
When asked why they opposed a merger, participants said things like:

Two losers don’t make one winner.
You get the worst of both parties. Incompetent rednecks. Who’d vote for that?
Springborg and Quinn couldn’t galvanise a roofing nail, let alone two political parties.
The merger exists. It’s called the Coalition. Make that work for starters.

Why would they be less effective?

Thinking too much about themselves, not the people they’re supposed to represent.
They couldn’t agree on what to take to a picnic, let alone what to do if they ran the place.

Disagreement with the idea was greatest amongst Liberal voters.

I’d be less likely to vote Liberal if they were tied up with those rednecks.
Liberals are in enough trouble – but not as much as the Nationals. It would be like putting on a concrete lifejacket.
The Nationals lost me when they cuddled up to Hanson – I couldn’t vote for a party that did that.

Many respondents thought that the whole move was self-indulgent: “It’s about them, not me.”
It wasn’t in Ralph’s conclusions, but one answer to Springborg’s dilemma was implicit in this response: “John Howard is the best leader the Nationals have ever had. That’s how to do it.” In other words, the Nationals shouldn’t be trying to merge the parties, they should just give in and sign up as Liberal Party members.
I’d be interested in Springborg’s response to all of this. No-one gives you a gift leak like this without an agenda. Maybe there are things that are missing, or don’t add up. Still, I suspect I’m ahead, because I’m also told Springborg didn’t turn up to the briefing when the report was delivered. There are always things you don’t want to know.
Since this posting Steve Austin’s Brisbane ABC Radio morning programme has broadcast an interview about this post with me and John Black followed by one with Lawrence Springborg. Springborg said I only gave half the story and referred to some additional research that he had. I have offered him a right of reply on this site as well as the opportunity to post the totality of both research reports so that voters can judge for themselves. I’m awaiting a response at the moment (10:28 am EST).

Posted by Graham at 7:18 pm | Comments (1) |
Filed under: Australian Politics

1 Comment

  1. In his 12 November speech to the Queensland Press Forum, Springborg said:
    “I recently commissioned qualitative research on voter perceptions in Queensland’s South East and it showed support for the concept, but serious cynicism about it being achievable given our track record of disagreement…”
    Presumably there is another research report, as there is no way that this one could be described as “showing support for the concept”!

    Comment by greg — December 7, 2004 @ 1:56 pm

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