May 11, 2008 | Graham

Liberal and National merger – over the falls again

Lawrence Springborg has been spruiking a new conservative party for most of this year, but when we get to look at his bride, she’s actually not new, she’s 63 years old and calls herself the Liberal Party. She will have to change her name to Liberal National Party, but as she will be part of the Liberal Party of Australia, nothing much will have changed. Or will it?
This sounds awfully like the last almost merger which failed because the National Party membership wouldn’t accept becoming a part of the Liberal Party. The history of that effort is traced on this blog, starting here.
It’s hard to be certain about what is proposed, because in a demonstration of the high levels of trust and transparency in the Liberal Party, virtually no-one has a copy of the draft merger document, not even the vice-presidents, but there has to be more to this proposal than a name change and membership influx.
The clue that there is comes from the fact that both parties will need to hold a constitutional convention to agree to this proposal. So what are the Liberals giving up this time that they didn’t last?
I’ve been promised a full briefing, but the one thing that I have been told is that the party will be split into 10 regions, only two of which will be in the south-east corner of the state where the people live, effectively giving the Nationals control of the new entity, and reducing existing Liberals to impotence. I am told that this is an organisational variation on the gerrymander which used to rule Queensland politics where the areas with fewest voters got proportionately more votes than the areas where people lived.
So the Liberals lose control of their own party, and this seems to be confirmed by the deals that have been done by various people. George Brandis was at the Brendan Nelson lunch and told me quite definitely that he was opposed to any merger. He also said that the Liberal Party membership was overwhelmingly opposed to any merger. He’s quiet this morning, because he is said to have done a deal that the Liberals will maintain the top three positions on the Senate ticket (with him at the apex) and the Nationals Barnaby Joyce will be number four. You only do a deal like this if you know you won’t have control of your preselection in the future.
(Lest any feel sympathy for Joyce being relegated to the least winnable spot, a further twist is that if he does lose, Ron Boswell will retire and he will fill the casual vacancy).
Geoff Greene, the Liberal Party’s “campaign maestro” who has led the party to devastating losses each time he’s been in control, has also dealt himself into the directorship of the new entity.
Presumably interim president Spence has also hammered out a deal for himself.
All of which is ironic. While the Nationals have been promoting “The Borg” as the answer to everything in Queensland state politics, the one person who really does have the potential to change things is Mal Brough, and the effect of these manoueverings is to tend to marginalise Brough and give power to the people who have failed at every election for the last 10 years.
Just when the Liberals were about to do some serious spring cleaning and set the coalition on the path to winning some time in the not so indeterminate future, their president has decided to call in the wrecking ball.

Posted by Graham at 10:00 pm | Comments (2) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. Some comments:
    – In essence the merger is a reverse takeover. The National Party will disband their party and join the Liberal Party, the Liberal Party’s constitution will then be amended to reflect a new constitution to be agreed by the parties.
    – The Nationals’ 9000 members and 17 MPs will dominate all organisational and parliamentary decision-making, compared to the Liberals’ 5000 members and 8 MPs.
    – There are 5 regional chairs for the South East: Sunshine Coast, Brisbane North Central and South, and Gold Coast. The represent a disproportionate number of Federal seats.
    – All elected reps have guaranteed preselection for one election cycle.
    – Under the new model there is only one president and one Vice-President (I can therefore see why the Libs’ VPs are squealing).
    – The timetable is State Convention will debate a motion on 30 May weekend, a plebiscite of Liberal members will be completed by the end of June and then a Constitutional Convention will be held by both parties on the weekend of 26/27 July.
    – The most hilarious part of this cooked up shambles is that the draft constitution must be finalised by 15 May (the last date for circulation under the Nats rules for a Constitutional Convention on that date) and had not been commenced as at the date of the State Council meeting.
    This is going to end in tears.

    Comment by Doug — May 12, 2008 @ 11:20 am

  2. If George Brandis is such a vote winner, why does he not vacate his senate seat to run for a Labor held House of Reps seat? Simple answer is he would lose.

    Comment by Steve — May 13, 2008 @ 8:13 pm

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