June 30, 2004 | Jeff Wall

The non-Labor amalgamation cause suffers a setback.

WHEN I was at school we were taught almost as much about Canada – and other Commonwealth countries – as we were about Australia.
Times have changed, and I venture to suggest that most politicians here could not name the Canadian Prime Minister. One who no doubt can, and add the name of the Opposition Leader as well, is Queensland Nationals Leader, Lawrence Springborg.
Soon after the State Election, Mr Springborg rushed off to Canada to meet with the Leaders of the newly-merged Conservative Parties, in order to build the case for the merger of the National and Liberal Parties in Queensland.
Canadians voted in national elections on Monday, and the result is not good news for the Conservatives, led by Stephen Harper, or for Lawrence Springborg!
It is not good news for Canada’s opinion pollsters either – most of whom were wide of the mark in their final predictions.
The Liberal Government led by the rather boring Paul Martin has been re-elected, even though it will need the support of one of the smaller parties to govern.
The newly-united Conservatives made gains, but also lost ground in some of their traditional strongholds. But the Liberals won 135 seats to the Conservatives 99 and most Canadian commentators regard the outcome as a dissapointing one for the Conservatives (and for the pollsters).
About one third of Canadian Parliamentary seats are in Ontario, where the Liberals held 95 seats and the Conservatives just 4 seats in the last Parliament.
The newly united Tories had been hoping for 40 seats – given that its Leader spent 24 of the 36 campaign days in Ontario. They ended up winning 24 seats, ensuring the Liberals remained the largest Party in the Parliament, and in the only position to form a minority Government.
Of concern for the Conservatives is the fact that the vote for the merged party dropped by 8 per cent…….and only ended up with 14 seats more than the total count of the two former parties at the last election.
What does all this mean for Lawrence Springborg?
The case he had hoped would be overwhelmingly made out for the Queensland Nationals and Liberals to merge, and follow the “triumphant model” of the merged Canadian Conservatives has fallen very flat.
I don’t know much about Canadian politics, but what I do know is the Liberal Government struggled to overcome a scandal over favours for its business supporters, and a lacklustre and largely unknown Prime Minister who took office only last December.
The answer for the National and Liberal Parties in Queensland is to focus on being a constructive and responsible Opposition, and abandon the negative muck-raking evident in the last Session of Parliament.
Opposition is tough…….and the longer you are in Opposition the tougher its gets.
In any event, why on earth would the National Party want to merge with the faction-ridden Queensland Liberals? Do they really want Michael Johnson and Santo Santoro stacking their comfortable little rural branches – because that is what would happen if the Parties merged.
The other result would also be a breakaway “Country Party”………which under the optional preferential system would spell electoral disaster (something they are getting used to).
Thanks to Peter Beattie’s generosity, and lobbying by a number of people – myself included – when Rob Borbidge became Premier in 1996, Queensland has the best resourced Opposition in Australia.
Its about time the taxpayers of Queensland started getting some real value for their money!

Posted by Jeff Wall at 7:47 am | Comments Off on The non-Labor amalgamation cause suffers a setback. |
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