Canberra correspondent Bernard Keane writes:|
Sep 25, 2008 12:00AM |EMAIL|PRINT
Yesterday an email was sent out from the Queensland Liberal National party campaign HQ to the party’s new regional officials seeking nominations and recommendations of people “you think appropriate and would recommend we approach” to stand for the Liberal Nationals.
The email was sent by Andrew Bibb, Senior Consultant with Australian Public Affairs. Bibb asked for: “Information on potential candidates that sitting LNP Elected Officials may know of in any of the 66 seats we will be fielding new candidates in; Potential Campaign Committee Officials and Campaign operatives.”
Turns out that Australian Public Affairs has been hired by the LNP to organise candidates. Bibb told The Australian such a practice was “standard party procedure”, although he didn’t mention which party. In the good old days, local branches and electorate councils selected candidates, not consulting firms.
According to Queensland Liberals, Australian Public Affairs will be controlling the process of candidate selection for all seats where there isn’t a sitting Liberal or Nationals member. Which, as the email indicates, is quite a lot.
Who is Andrew Bibb? He’s a former Campaign and Policy Manager for the Nats and adviser to Lawrence Springborg. And he’s controlling preselections for the “new” party.
Who are Australian Public Affairs? The chairman is Alastair Furnival, a hard-right Liberal Party functionary closely aligned with Santo Santoro, for whom he was Chief of Staff during Santoro’s thankfully abbreviated stint as Minister for Aged Care. Furnival was also editor of The Conservative, under the stewardship of — you guessed it — Santoro (other editors of included Connie Fierravanti-Wells and former Howard staffer Gerry Wheeler, suggesting The Reactionary would have been a more appropriate title).
For those who came in late, the Santoro faction in the Queensland Liberal was initially opposed to a merger with the Nats until they lost control of the party — first moderate Queensland businesswoman Sue Boyce took Santoro’s Senate spot last year, then Mal Brough defeated Santoro spear-carrier Gary Spence for the party presidency in May. By that stage, the Santoro faction had decided collaboration with the Nats in their takeover of the Liberal Party was the best means of returning to power.
That collaboration — and we mean collaboration in the very finest Vichy sense of the term — is perfectly displayed in the control the Nats and the Santoro faction will exercise over preselections for the Liberal National Party.
That’s doubtless one of the reasons why moderate Liberals are voting with their feet. Initially, LNP — read Nationals — officials were telling the media that the merger had been so successful there were now more members than the Nats and the Liberals combined.
This has turned out to be not quite the case. In a video being played at new LNP meetings, president (and former Nats president) Bruce McIver says that the current membership level is 13,000.
Prior to the merger, the Nats had 11,000 and the Liberals 5,500. So even by McIver’s own admission, 3,500 members have gone missing. No prizes for guessing which party and which wing those 3,500 have come from.
The question is, therefore, where they will go? There will surely be a new party for disaffected Liberals. Brisbane radio station 4BC was reporting yesterday an application to de-register the Liberal Party had been received by the Queensland Electoral Commission, signed by former state party director Geoff Greene. Curiously enough, the application was dated after Greene finished in that position. Santoro had negotiated a lucrative severance package for Greene, a loyal factional ally.
Perhaps the death of one party opens the way for the birth of another.