March 29, 2007 | Graham

Forgive, but don’t forget

Bruce Flegg’s decision to leave Tim Nicholls on the front-bench after his abortive leadership coup is either an attempt to break the system of factional pay-back in the Queensland Libs, or a sign that every player in this party wins a prize.
It could just as easily be either. Flegg’s not your typical politician, as Queenslanders should have gathered by now. A typical politician wouldn’t have put Nicholls in the cabinet in the first place. Nicholls is a long-time Santoro retainer and it was a reasonable bet he would destabilise the leadership at some time. A typical politician would have preferred an ally like Glen Elmes. But Elmes has never been elected before, while Nicholls had served a term and a half in the Brisbane City Council, so experience won out.
Then again, with so many positions to fill and only 8 members, Flegg doesn’t have a lot of choice. He couldn’t have demoted Nicholls to Party Whip, because the leader has to be able to work with the Whip, which means the only form of demotion would have been to swap him with Elmes anyway. Nicholls is apparently a champion water saver, so the position of Parliamentary Secretary to the Shadow Minister for the Environment might have been sustainable, but then there’s the experience factor.
In any event Tim should be feeling fairly humiliated. A succession of his colleagues were keen to go on air yesterday to describe him in various shades of inexperienced and referring to “potential”, almost as a synonym for “young” and “wet behind the ears”. So Tim’s got an alibi. But what’s party President Warwick Parer’s excuse? He was the public face of the Clayton’s coup, prepared to suggest Flegg should be “chucked out” of the Liberal Party. As reported in yesterday’s Australian:
“Mr Parer refused repeatedly to express support for Dr Flegg’s leadership.
‘If you did this in the Labor Party, you would be chucked out,’ he said.”
The “this” that he was talking about was Flegg’s stand in favour of upgrading the Ipswich Motorway rather than the Prime Minister’s plan to build a bypass. Flegg has run on this platform in his local electorate twice, it is state Liberal Party policy, and it is state Coalition policy. Honouring promises and sticking by party policy are apparently sins in today’s Liberal Party.
Parer’s got it 180 degrees wrong – if anyone were to be “chucked out” it should be him. But Warwick’s probably safe because in today’s Queensland Liberal Party it seems that no-one loses their job anymore.

Posted by Graham at 5:43 pm | Comments Off on Forgive, but don’t forget |
Filed under: Australian Politics

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