Last week John Howard yesterday hinted
at the prospect of a merger between the National and Liberal parties at
a federal level – but added he was totally opposed to a consummation of
the two conservative parties in Queensland. He claimed such a plan
would merely create a third conservative force in Australia.

That
hasn’t stopped Queensland Nationals leader Lawrence Springborg pressing
on with his plan for the Pineapple Party, as local wits have named it.
Springborg and Quinn – and Howard – met this week, but a torrent of
leaks to the Courier Mailseemed to wash away any chances of success before they’d even sat today.

“Today’s
peace summit between Queensland’s conservative parties appears headed
for failure, with the Liberals demanding to lead any future coalition,”
the Courier Mail reported. “Armed with research showing the
Liberals are a far more marketable ‘brand’ in the crucial south-east of
the state, party leader Bob Quinn will tell Prime Minister John Howard
the next conservative Premier of Queensland should be a Liberal. In an
aggressive attack on their would-be coalition partners, Mr Quinn will
also outline a plan to persuade sitting Nationals MPs, including
Queensland leader Lawrence Springborg, to switch camps and contest the
next state election – due in 2007 – as Liberals. But Mr Springborg has
blasted the demands as “audacious and unrealistic… Where does that
happen anywhere else, where the majority party in a Coalition does not
assume the leadership of it? It is like John Howard coming out and
saying to John Anderson: ‘You be Prime Minister’.”

Queensland Liberal prisoner of conscience Graham Young summed it all well on his Online Opinion website:

The Courier Mail story carries all the hallmarks of
an ambush – it bears a relationship to the truth, but it’s not close…
Let’s start with the meeting. Yes, there is a meeting, but no, it’s not
a summit – this is a meeting that Howard was badgered into… He has no
intention of getting involved in brokering any sort of a deal.
Apparently Springborg, through John Anderson, has been pestering the
Prime Minister for a meeting for the last six or so months to talk
about his proposal for one conservative party.

Once Springborg
had publicly abandoned his plans for the party as a result of being
over-ruled by the National Party’s conference, Howard apparently felt
it was safe to agree to a meeting, on a couple of conditions, one of
which was that Bob Quinn was there. The meeting appears to have been
envisaged as not much more than a chat. Have the Queensland Liberals
demanded to head the Coalition, even though they only have 5 seats to
the Nationals 15? Again, the answer appears to be no. What they have
said is that based on research, the people of Queensland are not going
to accept a Coalition headed by the National Party as the government,
and this presents a problem to them and the National Party.

The
solution they propose is to have some sort of an alliance. Each party
would have designated regions of the state in which they would run, and
policy leadership in particular areas would be allocated to each party.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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