Our journalism usually sits behind a paywall, but we believe this is the time to make more of our content freely available to as many readers as possible. For more free coverage, sign up to COVID-19 Watch.

Liberal loyalist Tom Payne is still angry after he handed out how-to-vote cards for 10 hours on election day in Queensland and saw his party get blown away. After venting his spleen last week, Tom has provided a thoughtful update which all Conservatives in Queensland should read.

The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of moral crisis maintain their neutrality.

Dante said this in the 13th Century, but he may as well have said it about the Queensland Liberal Executive Meetings in the lead up to the recent State election.

Lets face it, if there is a hell on earth, the Queensland Libs are surely suffering it now, arent they/we?

On election night former Liberal Leader David Watson was asked, whos fault was it that the Liberals performed so badly. Watson admitted that the buck stops with him because he is leader, but in reality, he didnt sound like he believed it.

Watson must accept the blame for what happened to the Queensland Liberals, not because he was leader, but because he allowed it to happen.

Watson didnt unite a deeply divided party (sorry, now I sound like the ABC) and he didnt bring under his guidance the ex-Santos when they became disenfranchised with said Santo. Whats more, as leader, Watson didnt control Santo and his destructive personal ambitions.

Those who know Watson on a personal level know him to be an obliging, friendly, and decent guy. Hes intelligent, and when hes not trying to parrot grabs for television, hes articulate.

And those who know him have steadfastly refused to say anything against him because hes a nice guy. But you know what they say about nice guys, and I guess the preferences will sort that out once and for all.

After the 1998 watershed, the Liberals needed strong leadership. Not just the guy with the numbers, or the guy who hadnt done it before, but a real leader.

They needed someone with vision and a bit of charisma (eek, Hawke!). Someone who had the ability to talk to everybody, to sway and convince. Someone who could look people directly in the eye and not flinch. A person who loved campaigning.

The Liberals needed the type of leader who was stopped in the street for a chat about the world, someone whod sit in a bar and have a beer with the boys.

They needed a leader who shifted the party out of its comfort zone, who made a few enemies and made the majority stop and think.

Watson was the wrong person for that job. He would have made a very good Treasurer, the best, in fact, but he was a shithouse political party leader.

Im being a bit harsh on the party which is, in reality, the third party in Queensland. Im being harsh because the Queensland Liberals are determined to become the major conservative force in Queensland. They want to win seats from the Nats as well as win back city seats from Labor.

But they keep thinking like the third party and its a self-perpetuating problem. Fact: Queensland Liberals dont become premier or prime minister, therefore the same lacklustre talent is preselected time after time. While you need a certain amount of caucus fodder, there are no leading lights in the division who can take the mantle of leader and build a strong and popular party.

The more folksy candidates the Liberals preselect, the less likely there is to be a leader in amongst them. Yet, a leader of a political party has to have a careful balance of folksy and dynamic.

People with talent aren’t encouraged into the party and nor do they feel they want to join. Bright sparks are put out quickly. People with vision or personality are ostracised. Women are not encouraged to be anything more than bit players.

Instead, cardboard cutouts are put up as members. In some cases, candidates corflutes are more interesting than many Liberal candiates.

Case in point: Brett Mason. Nice guy. Presentable. Speaks well. Articulate. Intelligent. But hes backbench fodder and the southern Liberals know it. Hes a number in the caucus and nothing else.

Another case in point: Peter Lindsay. Nice guy. Works his electorate well, but not a leader. Teresa Gambaro, excellent prawns but no leadership ability.

Watson is a nice guy, but hes not very inspiring; hes got great ideas, but cant communicate them; he has an extensive knowledge of business and economics, but hes a poor parliamentary performer.

Beattie has a beer in the Paddington Tavern on the night of the State of Origin and wins a 1000 votes. Where was Watson? Where was Borbidge? I doubt either was even watching it on television (lesson for you Lawrence).

Even though I hate the Labor party and everything they do (stand for, advocate and proliferate) it is a slick and professional operation. They cultivate talent and they groom them up. They send them to training camps, for heavens sake! They sit around campfires, toasting what some of them call Liberal wets on sticks and tell stories of how they stacked the ballot boxes etc.

The Liberals are flat out recommending their candidates take up Toastmasters.

Its a bit of a joke that the one major talent on the Howard Government front bench was trained by the Labor Right and the Baptist church.

The Campaign

Think about Beatties campaign – he drew a stark contrast between himself and the Coalition leaders. He highlighted their flaws and played down his own. He played himself up, and hid his front bench. (Schwarten was unavailable for campaigning during the election due to his temper management classes.)

Beatties campaigning was straight from the US textbooks. I know this because I have them. Every time I tried to talk about these textbooks I was ignored or shouted down.

I dont know what went on in the Executive Meetings which dictated the campaign, but I do know I offered Watson access to the textbooks and techniques which Labor used in the last election.

Last week I heaped it on Santo and his cronies because and I dont walk away from those comments. But a few people have called on me to balance the books. And thats fair.

In my opinion, Watson is just as guilty as Santoro for the Queensland Liberals loss in Queensland because he didnt exercise leadership and discipline over his own party.

I dont believe every member of the 20 member executive forgot all about the issue of jobs, which has, remarkably, been found to be the top issue for voters across Australia.

Watson sat on those executive meetings which directed the campaign and he knew the tone and the message which was being developed. Did he fight hard enough for a complete campaign? Did he badger members after the meeting the way Santo does? Did he lobby them on the quiet, did he look at the polling carefully and point out to them their fundamental flaws in the campaign?

When a leader doesn’t have automatic support for an idea, he or she must get it. You have to talk to people and explain your vision to them in simple logic. You fight with them. You try and sway them. If you cant sway them, move on to a softer target. You get just enough support for your idea and you go with it.

Its a lot of work, but when you win the small battles, you win the war.

I understand it took Menzies some two years to get some sort of cohesion in the Liberal Party, and a lot of that was negotiating, badgering and nagging. But he did it.

I have to admit to a greater knowledge of Watson than I have of Santo, and for that reason Ive been a bit kinder on him in the past. Maybe if I had been more honest with Watson when I knew him, then we both would be in a different place now.

I asked a wisened old political spectator who he thought would be the messiah to come out of the desert and show the Queensland Liberals the way. I asked him how do these people get across the Dead/Red Sea without that guy with the stick?

You dont. Youre stuck in the desert. Look on the bright side, it took the Jews something like 40 years to be lead out of the desert. And since then theyve been persecuted by virtually everyone.

Frightening thought, isnt it?

ends

Now, this is the original column from Tom written the day after the Queensland election.

Flogging a dead Liberal horse

It’s the day after the Queensland election and in my parents’ neck of the woods it’s a glorious, clean, cool morning. It’s the insult to the injuries inflicted by yesterday’s poll. It’s someone’s way of saying: ‘See? You could have been enjoying this if you’d won yesterday!’

(There is some small consolation that many champagne socialists/socialites will have scorching hangovers and also won’t be able to enjoy today.)

Unfortunately, I, and a few others, are a bit angry about the election result yesterday. With whom? With the Santoro faction and a little less so with Howard and Costello.

I’m also a little angry with myself for foolishly standing in the wind, rain, wind, rain and hot burning sun for 10 hours just to support a friend who lost his seat because of the other two reasons.

The only silver lining in the otherwise perfect, puffy clouds today is that Santo Santoro may not have a seat in the Queensland Parliament. Unfortunately, he will probably run for president of the Queensland Liberals, because we all know what happens to men when they become useless, don’t we Gareth?

Instead of suffering a nightmare of recrimination and anger from his own faction, he will once again, like Pauline from the ashes, rise up and keep on running the Queensland Liberal Party into the ground.

I cringed when I saw Santo set himself up as Queensland’s answer to Michael Kroger and called the election results with Graham Richardson. The prima donna of Queensland politics was back in the limelight! What a night it would be! (Clasp hands and check backside in full length mirror).

Not.

On the ground where I was, the workers were angry. We were all a bit tired and sunburned. We’d done our job. We’d put a lot of work into the campaign. But the postal votes had been stuffed up. One of the brochures done by headquarters ended up in Wynumn(!) and all the campaign workers got were excuses from headquarters: ‘we don’t have enough money’ or ‘we can’t match Labor’s spending’.

Bullshit.

Santo’s cronies are now trying to blame business for not donating. But business is just as tired of being blamed for the Santo faction’s ineptitude as the West faction is tired of being labelled ‘troublemakers’. Every time we tell it like it is, we’re labelled troublemakers.

Well, today I’m happy to carry that tag.

Think about this: Beattie went to the ’98 election on a promise of 5% unemployment – it’s stuck at 8%. He’s introduced brothels into suburbs, legalised marijuana, doubled the number of poker machines, been given a black dot for social policy by the Evatt Foundation in it’s state of the states report (no less), he lost his deputy premier for electoral rorting, and Kaiser (actually an electoral bonus for Beattie if you think about it) went.

In the seat of Mt Coot-tha Labor’s building a whopping great monument to the NRL and the Broncos – who should be paying for their own stadium from the money they rip out of their unsuspecting poker machine addicted patrons – to the tune of $260million.

Meanwhile down the road (same seat) in an area desperate for parks, Labor’s planning on building housing commission units to prop up Comrade Edmond’s vote. Further down the road the Mt Coot-tha roundabout desperately needs an upgrade to stop the backup of traffic from the western suburbs. The roundabout would cost around $30 million, but the Beattie government claims it doesn’t have the money.

Drug education in schools has been abolished. Special needs kids have had their support staff numbers slashed to a third (not by a third but to a third) and teachers who were told a 4% pay rise was peanuts by Beattie, had to strike to get 3% last year.

Over at the Department of State Development, which was in a mess before Elder left, but seems to be getting over it now, the ghosts of the failed Techno mart lurk in the corridors. The smelter outside Gladstone, so recently swiped from NSW, is already starting to smell bad.

In the Department of Natural Resources no one can apply for their jobs because there’s no money. If there are jobs available, the more qualified contracted staff can’t apply for the permanent jobs because Treasury doesn’t have the money for redundancies.

Hospital waiting lists have blown out and little old ladies have to wait for hours for an ambulance when they break their osteoperoded bones.

Treasury is pissed off and leaking like a sieve, for that matter if you meet public servants on the street they’re all pissed off and telling you they were the ones who reported Musgrove to the CJC and aren’t the brothers corrupt. They do it openly and in broad daylight.

They tell you Fenlon worked for Beattie when Beattie was Health Minister and if he had dealings with Birmingham Beattie would know about them.

Schwarten thumps the husband of the Federal Member for Capricorn and the Premier tells the victim to drop the charges.

Business is complaining that payroll tax was increased and industrial relations laws make it impossible for small business. There are no major projects being started, and the ones being completed were started by Borbidge.

AND THE ONLY BLOODY CAMPAIGN MESSAGE THE LIBERALS BOTHERED TO PUT TOGETHER WAS DON’T REWARD POLITICAL RORTING.

Forgive me, but who the hell gives a duck?

I’m not a political genius, but I went home to Queensland expecting to see a great carryon about the 5% unemployment target.

Nothing.

In the seat of Aspley, the Eros Foundation was handing out brochures of a woman holding a dildo telling voters to ‘put it up politicians and vote Labor’. Where was the outcry? Even the postal workers were disgusted with having to deliver pornographic propaganda.

Across the road from Bald Hills State School, the Beattie Government is widening a railway bridge. I stood there yesterday for the second half of my ten hour day (in the sun) and stared at this construction site which looked exactly the same as it did when I stood there last year handing out how to vote cards for the local government election.

Why? The Beattie Government signed a contract which allows the contractor any amount of time to complete this project. It could take years.

WHERE WAS THIS IN THE CAMPAIGN? The only transport policy I saw was some bullshit about left turns at red lights. Who gives a duck?

Forgive me for being angry, but ‘don’t reward the rorts’ in hot pink does not win votes! Hot pink? Hot pink?

On Howard…

I didn’t have much to do yesterday, because a lot of people weren’t taking my HTV cards. So I stared at the petrol station across the road where the price of fuel is 87cents a litre, and the price of diesel is 81cents a litre. My booth buddy told me he was going to send his truck drivers over here to buy fuel instead of Northgate. We agreed it was probably being jacked up in Northgate because heavy vehicles used that route as a thoroughfare.

It’s not the price of fuel that will lose votes in October but the perception that Howard doesn’t care about the price. Remove the extra 2cents a litre and have a bloody inquiry into the cost of fuel. What a lot of people are trying to tell Howard is it is outrageous that the oil companies are getting away with murder on the price of fuel.

But back to Santo. Last year, I said that Santo Santoro would ‘destroy the hill in order to take it’. Well, he’s done it. Santo Santoro has destroyed the party in Queensland and in the process made the Liberals a laughing stock throughout Australia.

Good on you, Santo. Enjoy your victory. But tell me, how sweet is it to sit atop a pile of corpses surveying the ruins of the manor?

Peter Fray

This crisis will cut hard and deep but one day it will be over.

What will be left? What do you want to be left?

I know what I want to see: I want to see a thriving, independent and robust Australian-owned news media. I want to see governments, authorities and those with power held to account. I want to see the media held to account too.

Demand for what we do is running high. Thank you. You can help us even more by encouraging others to subscribe — or by subscribing yourself if you haven’t already done so.

If you like what we do, please subscribe.

Peter Fray
Editor-In-Chief of Crikey

Support us today