The first par of TheCourier Mail’s report on the new agreement between the Queensland Liberals and Nationals says all you
need to know about the state of relations in the “coalition of equals”: “Conservative
voters in Queensland will not know who they are choosing as premier under a
wait-and-see Coalition arrangement announced yesterday.”

Forget about
Lawrence Springborg’s pineapple party. Queenslanders will now have a chance to
vote for the pig in a poke party. Brave!

As TheCourier
Mail
says, “Unable to overcome issues of who should lead, the Nationals and
Liberals yesterday unveiled plans to stand a ‘Coalition of equal partners’ in a
bid to capitalise on the waning popularity of the Labor Premier, Peter Beattie.
While touted as a revival of a formal coalition, the arrangement is simply a
pact to work together before the election and form government, if possible,
afterwards. Queenslanders have not been given details of the agreement, with
party leaders yesterday publicly producing only a decorative pledge devoid of
any specifics.”

Voters tend to
like to know little details about who their premier may be.

The
coalition agreement has been greeted with a little cynicism by former party
heavy Graham Young at Online Opinion. “While the Liberals are best placed to
win urban seats they agreed to contest only those seats they contested the last
time, with the exception of Burleigh, which the National Party ceded to them
this time. In the seats of Broadwater, Gaven, Mudgeeraba, Redlands,
Springwood and Hervey Bay the parties squibbed on the issue by deciding to have ‘joint
pre-selections’,” he observes.

“I’m
not sure how you do that under the constitution of each of the parties, but it
sounds to me like an invitation to all-out branch stacking in seats where the
National Party should have no reasonable expectation of winning a popular vote.
But if the National Party can find more bodies than the Liberals, they are likely
to be the party contesting it for the Coalition.”

That’s
an old stumbling block for a merger between conservative parties. The Nats
mightn’t have the MPs – but they’ve got the members.

“The Liberal Party should have gone into the coalition negotiations
determined to ensure that whatever happened they had the run of the
metropolitan areas, the National Party the bush, and they shared the regional
areas between them. Queensland politics will be out of joint until the
non-Labor side of politics is run by the major non-Labor metropolitan party,”
Young adds.
“That hasn’t happened, and in the process the Liberal Party have shown
the habitual inability to negotiate hard which the National Party would have
expected all along, and traded on…

“The
joint preselection process is bizarre. It entails each party pre-selecting a
candidate and then each pre-selected candidate fronting a combined preselection
council made up of equal numbers of Liberals and Nationals. If the combined
pre-selection council comes to a draw, a preselection council constituted of
the party leadership convenes, and if it still comes to a draw, then there will
be a three-cornered contest.”

Peter Fray

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