December 08, 2004 | Lawrence Springborg

Response to On-Line Opinion

On Tuesday morning, Brisbane ABC Radio listeners awoke to claims that Graham Young would be on the morning program with ‘leaked’ research showing that Lawrence Springborg’s plan for One United Conservative Party would be a failure in the electorate.
Graham Young may be chief editor of On-Line Opinion. But, as former Vice President of the Liberal Party, he is also a known key factional player in the Liberal Party and long-time opponent of conservative unity.
For Young to try and present himself as some sort of independent analyser of conservative politics is dishonest in the extreme.
But what is even more dishonest was his decision to conceal the key findings of the research from both his On-Line Opinion piece and from ABC Radio listeners.
Young called my office after he had been on radio and told my office he was seeking an on-line response that would be un-edited. In doing so he also admitted that he did in fact have all the research – the good and the bad – but had ‘chosen’ only to run the bad comment and had deliberately not published one of the key conclusions that:
“A merger that immediately and unequivocally demonstrates that Queensland now has a cohesive, active, positive and effective Opposition will be well supported”.
He also concealed the conclusions and positive comments from ABC Radio listeners. In essence, he pushed a factional line. And that’s something readers and sponsors of On-Line opinion need to be very aware.
Along with many Liberal Party members, I have always argued that factional players fear nothing more than a new united conservative party because it threatens their various fiefdoms. And for that reason they fear nothing more than to let rank and file branch members have a say.
It is interesting too that Young tried to peddle his research as ‘leaked’ and ‘exclusive’ and that it would undo the momentum for one united conservative party. Why then was it not picked-up by any other media outlet?
The answer: because it had already been obtained in its entirety by The Courier-Mail a month earlier who had revealed the recommendations in total – the good and the bad.
Graham Young did not lie. But he was monumentally dishonest by deliberately concealing all the information. This morning he has finally felt obliged to publish it in its entirety. Why not when he first raised the issue? In publishing his comments this morning he also attempts to detract from the actual findings by taking a swipe at me – the latest manoeuvre on behalf of his faction.
With the support of the business community, I commissioned Toby Ralph to undertake qualitative research in Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast immediately after the Federal Election. I didn’t give Toby set questions in order to guide the responses, I simply said to him: go out and find out what people really think.
I wanted a warts and all assessment of the community’s perception of one united conservative party along with their perception of both The Nationals and the Liberal Party. This research was not secretive – indeed all five State Liberal MPs were offered a briefing on the findings but failed to accept.
All quantitative research conducted over the last decade indicates between 70 and 80% support for a merger. I wanted to drill down further and find out what people really thought beyond the superficial and it was not pretty for either the Liberals or the Nationals.
When qualitative research is conducted it seeks a broad cross-section of views and takes comments from people who are both for and against a merger. It is not hard then for Young to selectively – under his guise of being independent – to quote the negative comments to the exclusion of the positive.
Those who supported the merger made the commonsense conclusions that “they would present a united conservative view”; “Fighting Labor not each other’; “Get rid of the City/regional divide’; and “No distracting arguments, and not fighting each other for the same seat”.
One of the great problems that confront the conservatives in Queensland is a ‘world domination’ view that comes from some sections of the Liberal Party who always believe that the next election is the one where they will rise-up and outgrow The Nationals. The Liberals currently have five seats in the 89 seat parliament and for the last 15 years have always been out-numbered by The Nationals, on average, to a ratio of 3:1. And there is nothing that indicates this will change in the near future.
But Young, as the former Vice President to the Liberal Party, takes some sort of macabre joy in recounting those comments made against The Nationals in the research. This is part of an old war that some Liberals and Nationals just can’t let go off.
But in recounting voter perception of The Nationals, Young interestingly fails to mention the voter perception of the Liberal Party at a State level as opposed to the Federal level.
Given that the research was undertaken in the south-east – where the Liberal Party claims to be at its strongest – feedback was summed-up along the lines of: ‘The Liberals are totally incompetent, irrelevant or beyond redemption’.
As Leader of the Opposition I get no joy out of research that shows either The Nationals or the Liberal Party perceived in a bad light. But I do know that the way forward is to acknowledge, rather than to deny, what our core problems are.
Frankly, in south-east Queensland, neither party has a glowing perception at a State level. And all of us have to acknowledge that if we are to move forward.
Young and some others want to continue to fight some sort of Nationals v Liberal battle rather than uniting the conservatives so that we actually defeat Labor sooner rather than later.
As Queensland Federal Liberal MP, Alex Somlyay, says: “Those with personal vested interests will not let it [one united conservative party] happen if it threatens their little kingdoms”.
Does Young seriously think that the hopelessness of the status quo is the way forward?
In a nutshell, the research concluded that more people support one united conservative party than not. However there is a huge cynicism amongst those who either support it or are undecided, because of decades of rivalries and bickering between both parties.
This perception will not end while the Liberal Party insists on a direction of ‘going it alone’ and deliberately creating policy differences with The Nationals. But it will be broken down, as the research concludes, if unity can be achieved and if the process is done properly.
I have developed a road-map – based on the success in Canada – for branch members to have the ultimate say on whether they want one-united party or not.
Also, contrary to Young’s assertion I have not announced an unresolved merger as advised against in the research, I have simply outlined a process to remove the vested interests and the roadblocks and to give it to the membership of the Liberals and Nationals to decide on their united future.
Under this road-map branch members will be given the results of research and a ‘yes and no’ case penned by eminent leaders in both The national and Liberal party.
Nothing could be more democratic. And nothing could be in greater accordance with the definition of the word ‘liberal’ which allows for free thought and open-mindedness. Subscribers can download a copy of that road-map from

Posted by Lawrence Springborg at 11:41 am | Comments (4) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. Lawrence,
    Exactly how do you plan on merging User Pays Economic Rationalism with Agrarian Socialism?
    I voted for the state liberals because they voted with Beattie on Tree Clearing legislation (and yes i own 400 acres north of brisbane with 1/2 of it timbered). Face the facts, what does the hard working “man of the land” who is getting screwed by multinationals and supermarkets gain from getting closer to the Liberals? And what does a the majority of SEQ gain from becoming closer to the National Party?
    The other big fact is that the liberals are very close to not needing the nationals at the federal level. In the house of representatives the liberals have outright control and there is no need for a coalition at all. It is only in the senate that the Nationals are required. And if the liberals won outright control (or scrapped the senate all together) the federal “Coalition” would cease to exist immediately.
    Believe it or not, I see a coalition between Labor and the Nationals as a far more realistic, viable and morally correct alternative.
    Does the term “liberal” not mean anti conservative?

    Comment by alphacoward — December 9, 2004 @ 12:30 pm

  2. Interesting observations that last one, alpha. It facinates me that all Oz parties seem to be euphemistically or inapproprately named.
    “Liberals” = Conservative party. Not liberal.
    “Nationals” = Rural only party.
    “Labor” = Creates *un*employment.
    “Greens” = Like watermellons. Red on the inside.
    “One Nation” = Promotes division.
    “Hemp” = Advocates for the plant that *looks* like hemp.
    “Family First” = Jesus First.
    “Democrats” = OK, if you believe that democracy is a joke.
    So perhaps “United Liberal Party” would be a better name than “United Conservative Party” given this tradition.

    Comment by evan — December 9, 2004 @ 2:25 pm

  3. Joining the Libs and the Nationals together will certainly capture a good chunk of voters, however it could be accompinied by the formation of 2 or more splinter parties consisting of, for example, small l liberals and progressive Farmers.
    Take the Liberal Party and the Abortion Issue, while the Liberals had no problem of displaying homophobia with gay marriage, part of the Liberal party baulked at discussion about Abortion. The Nationals are quite clearly conservative from a social perspective on both these issues, but the Liberals at both the state and federal level are not. You will weaken both your positions by trying to merging. You just can’t remove such internal factionalism. And thats the key word – Factions. Because like the well documented Labor party factions, the liberal party also already has enough division.
    Funny how our arbitary classifications and dimensions (left wing or right) can’t accurately descibre us. Remember Latham comes from the Conservative Right wing of the Labor party. In many ways he is much closer to the National party than some liberal party members.

    Comment by alphacoward — December 9, 2004 @ 4:21 pm

  4. A merger would, I suspect, lead to one grouping attempting to dominate another, as is always the case. This would impact on the Nats more than the Libs, given the Nats will continue to decline in relevance as the years pass. This is different to the old days when “liberals” were swamped by the then dominant Nats and pliable Lib colleagues.
    The Liberals and the Nats might both be conservatives, but of different stripes.
    Actually this discussion could be good for the Liberals, as it might make them see that they really need to be a cohesive and strong force. If they weren’t such a mess, the suggestion of a merger probably wouldn’t come up at all, and the two conservative partners could unite in a coalition when the time is right (i.e. elecion time and when in government).
    Won’t enter in to discussion surrounding research and other stuff, other then to express disappointment that slurs have been cast.

    Comment by Darlene Taylor at Blogspot — December 10, 2004 @ 6:59 pm

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