January 31, 2007 | Graham

Liberal “Coalition deal” disenfranchises voters and party

The “Coalition deal” accounced yesterday whereby Liberal Parliamentary Leader Bruce Flegg undertakes not to lead the Coalition, even if his party has more seats than the National Party, destroys the Coalition’s chances of winning the next state election.
At a time when Beattie government mismanagement is obvious and everywhere, the Liberal Party is asking Queenslanders to trust them to stand-up for Queensland when they can’t even stand-up for themselves. And the Coalition won’t win without a strong showing by the Liberal Party.
This arrangement means that it doesn’t really matter who Liberal voters vote for, they end up voting for a National Party dominated coalition. It takes away the main reason for voting for a party in the first place, and effectively disenfranchises Liberals. As a result many will probably vote for Beattie – he couldn’t be any worse – or for a minor party – because none of the major parties deserve a vote.
The question of leadership was a problem in the last election, but only because Flegg could not bring himself to spell out the commonsense, democratic position as stated in the Coalition agreement – that the leader of the more successful party would lead the Coalition. Instead he opted for a form of words very much like the one he is using now. He did this under National Party pressure.
The other two significant points of the arrangement look like a cave-in as well, particularly as they appear to be pretty much what National Leader Jeff Seeney demanded late last year in a speech to a Queensland Parliamentary Press Gallery sponsored luncheon.
The Parliamentary Leader is to be elected by the joint party room, and the parties are to contest equal numbers of seats at the next eletion. If Flegg is not leader after the next election, or welches on his undertaking, the first provision gives the Nats a last gasp opportunity to retain power by convincing some rogue Liberals to cross the floor to them. In a secret ballot with ministerial positions on offer, this is a possibility which of course works in both directions.
The principle in contesting seats ought to be that each party runs in the seats where it is most likely to win. As in the last election this might mean that one party runs in more seats than the other. This is increasingly likely to be the case as demographic change means that the National Party’s constituency is constantly decreasing. The 50,000 Australians moving to Queensland each year are mostly used to voting Liberal or Labor.
The National Party knows their base is diminishing and it has been the driving factor behind most of the Coalition turmoil. During the last term of Parliament, then Nat Leader Lawrence Springborg devoted a lot of time to telling Queenslanders that the Coalition arrangement couldn’t work and that they needed a new amalgamated party, under his leadership of course. This was one of the most potent messages available to Peter Beattie when the election came around – “Don’t vote for these guys, even they say they’re stuffed.”
As well as disenfranchising voters, Flegg has also disenfranchised his own party organisation. The Liberal Party deal is that the organisation doesn’t get to tell the parliamentarians how to vote, but they do get to decide on any Coalition, or like, agreements. Before Flegg, no parliamentary leader has thought to pre-empt and effectively blackmail the organisation by negotiating an agreement directly with the other parliamentary leader which is then presented as a fait accompli.
If the party accepts this agreement, then what is the point in joining an organisation which has virtually zero power? If it knocks it back, then Flegg’s position is untenable.
Sean Leahy’s Cartoon in today’s Courier Mail shows Bruce Flegg on television saying “…if the Libs win more seats than the Nats next election I won’t be premier.” “He got that bit right…” responds Norm who is sitting on the couch watching the screen. Indeed.

Posted by Graham at 9:21 am | Comments (3) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. Trackback:

    Comment by Mark Bahnisch — February 1, 2007 @ 1:57 pm

  2. The Coalition parties’ death wish continues to exceed their grasp of effective politics.

    Comment by Faustino — February 1, 2007 @ 6:49 pm

  3. i wonder if the ever present evidence of politician buffoonery will someday lead ozzies to grasp the utility of actual democracy? pleasant to think so, but an illiterate populace is more commonly captured by demagogues of the autocratic sort.
    or maybe things will just stumble along as they are- the lucky country can afford ineffectual management more than most.
    the really interesting thing about these discussions is that they exist, even though there is no potent electorate to influence. it’s no accident that pundits in oz are referred to as chatterati.

    Comment by al loomis — February 6, 2007 @ 10:15 am

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