November 13, 2005 | Graham

Autistic state liberals offer little alternative

Premier Peter Beattie is showing signs of extreme hubris (that translates from the Greek as “big-headedness”). Our research says that one result of the health crisis is that voters see through his style. So they are not going to warm to his latest stunt – paid advertising of the government’s performance on crime statistics because, according to The Sunday Mail “the crime figures were ‘not as well covered as we would have liked’ by the media”. Stick by your dials for Radio Nova Pete.
He’s down, and the state opposition is in a position to capitalise on it, particularly the state Liberals. Except for their own ramshackle state and lack of competent leadership.
I went to the Liberal Party convention on the weekend for a couple of hours – the first time for a few years. The first thing that I noticed was how many faces I recognised, the second how grey we are all becoming, and the third, how few of us there are. There were some Young Liberals in the room, but I suspect that I was still below median, let alone mean, age. That’s not a good demographic profile for a “party of the future”.
My first conversation was with a senior parliamentarian. “What’s the public message out of this convention?” I asked. “I’m not sure,” he replied. Since 1981 or ’82 when Gary Neat became State Director the invariable rule with state conventions was that they would project a tailored public relations message. It was a good rule, but apparently holds true no longer.
But party conventions do project a message by default if not design. So the lack of a set-piece meant that Howard’s bungled announcement of a mere $320 million to solve one of the most intractible traffic problems in the south-east corner – the Ipswich Motorway – dominated. The money is insufficient, and worse, the announcement was made without any forewarwning of the local libs who were flung into damage control. Apparently the first they knew was when journalists called them for comment! Talk about traffic accidents.
The reason for the lack of public relations focus probably lies in the extreme autism of the state liberals. The sub-text of the convention was the struggle by out-going state president, and now state MLA, Michael Caltabiano to become Queensland’s first liberal premier.
The party organisation has been busy polling to gauge Michael’s public standing, compared to Bob Quinn’s. Why bother? As our WhatthePeopleWant research, done jointly with the local ABC shows for free, Caltabiano’s well ahead with the public. But so what, Quinn’s the leader at least until the next election, and will be unless the party room decides otherwise?
Which is why the real action wasn’t at the convention at all, but out in the branches where preselections will be determined. The story there appears to be that the joint pre-selection process agreed with the Nationals is a face-saving device. The deal has already been done to sacrifice three seats to the National Party and vice-versa, and the determinant of which seats to sacrifice for the Liberals is whether the likely Liberal candidates are Quinn or Caltabiano supporters. Because joint pre-selections are made up of small numbers of Liberal and National executive members, they are open to manipulation – one or two members defecting from either party can make the difference and as Caltabiano controls the executive, he also effectively controls these preselections.
The only really significant business contracted by the party over the weekend were changes to the constitution which would make it easier to discipline dissidents, and to determine who should, or should not, be allowed to even present to a preselection.
If Premier Pete can conquer his own bouts of self-obsession and concentrate on his opponents, despite their wins in two by-elections, the Liberals will still be playing with themselves in their own corner after the election, not occupying the treasury benches. Which is Caltabiano’s best chance of becoming premier eventually.

Posted by Graham at 9:35 pm | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. I found it to be a bit of a non event. Every year the motion debate becomes more and more inane. I was very disappointed withy the new president’s performance not even chairing the sunday after he was elected.
    The other thing i noticed is how some people just continually carp on about the grand conspiracy theory. Honestly when will they get over it and accept that the Libs are all in the same boat – to defeat the Labor party. It’s not rocket science.
    But i do agree with your comment that the real work will be out in the branches. Some of them suffer dangerous paralysis.

    Comment by R — November 14, 2005 @ 1:39 pm

  2. The Liberal State Convention was far from slick and your right, It had no comprehensible message. I was impressed however by the unity shown this year. The Liberals are slowly coming together on the organisational front.
    However the political wing of the Queensland Liberal Party are drawing their swords. With 7 members now, one being Michael Caltabiano it is preselection wheeling and dealing time. The Liberals are confident of bring a large number of new members to the house and recruitment battle has heated up.
    You are right in saying the deal has been done although the face saving deal will lean towards the Liberals more than the National. The fact that the Nationals should not run in any of the joint preselection seats with polling proving that is the reason I belief they will only get two of the six. One of the 3 Gold Coast seats, from what was being said at convention it will be Gaven, and one of the other three, which has been hinted will be Redlands. These decisions and many more will be made with (will he vote for me in the party room) attitude. And with Bob Quinn one of the Joint Preselectors and Michael not I can tell you who has the upper hand in that situation. Michael has the upper hand everywhere else. Bob never wanted the job and now that there are some alternatives, including Dr Bruce Flegg, JP Langbroek and Michael Caltabiano no one has much faith in his ability to be Premier.
    Bob Quinn’s speech to convention was poor and uninspiring to say the least. One publication on the Gold Coast stated he got a standing ovation, but I can ashore you that only a hand full of people stood and I think they were just stretching after having sat though that mind numbing ordeal.
    JP Langbroek’s stock rose during convention, a great introduction by a young and more appealing member. His introduction was very refreshing and ironic in that he compared the state leader to Moses, both who are leading their people to the promised land, But remember Moses never made it to the promised land and I am sure no matter how hard he may try Bob may suffer the same fate.

    Comment by Mr Convention — November 14, 2005 @ 4:26 pm

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