Its been a interesting week in queensland politics with many moves afoot. It seems that queensland liberal are becoming an endangered species.

Believe it or not, no one has done this before.

And in typical David and Goliath form, it was the diminutive (in statue, not spirit) Liberal Leader David Watson who stood up to the all-seeing, all-knowing Santo faction.

The reasons are elementary, according to Dr Watson. The Santo camp is determined to run Liberals against Nationals in the next state election. Not a smooth move when you consider the current state of financial play in the Libs camp.

Nor is it smart when you consider just how fractured the conservative vote in Queensland is already, what with One Nation and it’s prolific offspring.

Speaking of One Nation, the push for three-cornered contests is proudly brought to you by the same people who brought the Queensland Liberals the One Nation preferences deal which lost the Liberals six seats to Labor in 1998.

And The Coalition Government

Watson has said these people lack ‘political credibility and acumen’.

And when you look at the One Nation deal, and the level of hostility towards One Nation in Liberal seats, you can understand why Watson went on the record.

If you couldn’t see how damaging that deal was in 1998, you are lacking in political acumen. And there’s nothing wrong with not having political acumen, except when you’re responsible for major political decisions for a major political party.

Maybe the Santo faction does have political acumen, but is determined reduce the Queensland Liberals to a basketball team.

Unfortunately for Watson, members of the Santo faction also have skins which are gossamer thin. Bob Carroll has refused to respond to Watson except on ABC radio, where no one could see him. And Santo Santoro threatened to resign if Watson didn’t take it back.

Needless to say, Watson held his ground and didn’t take it back.

The saga continues. Watson calls Santoro a ‘prima donna’ for posturing over remarks which didn’t name him. And Watson didn’t name Santoro as one of the principal architects of the deal. Santoro named Santoro when he threatened to resign.

“This isn’t about the Liberal leadership, this is about one man’s ego. There is no place for prima donnas in politics.”

Santoro didn’t expect someone to stand up to him. He assumed that Watson would roll over on this one.

Santoro called a press conference for 3.00pm. He turned up – fashionably late – at 3.15pm.

He handed out a full page media statement in a tastefully beige folder, chosen to compliment his tie. Only the television cameras could tell he was flushed with the excitement of such a grand exit – his last press conference and what a turnout! Photographers too!

Dignified exit be darned. He was milking this for every last grab he could get on the evening news. Stuff the radio, this was about talking headshots!

It was disappointing that he didn’t work into his media statement ‘I can’t work with that man!’ or ‘I’ll be in my trailer.’

Instead something like: ‘If he doesn’t think that much of me, I won’t stay on the frontbench’.

What now for Santoro? The smart money is that he will destabilise from the backbenches, and prevent the Liberals from becoming a real political force in Queensland and the Coalition away from winning government in Queensland.

Another ten years in the wilderness.

Who knows, Santo Santoro could even cost John Howard government. After all, he’s promised to ‘continue to be tireless in the pursuit of the advancement of the Parliamentary Liberal Party, Liberal policy and political outcomes’.

Key words there ‘political outcomes’, not a win, not a victory for all Liberals, but ‘political outcomes’.

That wasn’t an omen, that was a black and white promise. The fat lady hasn’t sung.

Can you see Santoro doing a Dietrich saying ‘I vant to be alone’? before becoming a recluse?

No, but you can see him doing a vampy Bette Davis: ‘Hold on to your hats, boys. We’re in for a bumpy ride.’

Peter Fray

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