The Queensland Coalition agreement, only two months old, is starting to
look very shaky. This morning’s Australian reports that the National Party is trying to “capitalise” on the woes
of Liberal leader Bob Quinn in the Gympie bribery scandal.
A quick recap: the state seat of Gympie is held by Elisa Roberts, an
ex-One Nation independent, but it’s otherwise National Party territory
and was allocated to them in the Coalition agreement. Last week,
however, Quinn admitted that he had held talks with Roberts in an
attempt to get her to join the Liberal Party. The police are
investigating claims that he offered her a bribe of $50,000.
It seems more likely that Quinn just pointed out to Roberts the
financial advantage she would gain by having her campaign funded by a
major party, although he may have expressed the point unwisely. But from
the National Party’s point of view, his crime was talking to her at all
– especially given the flak that the Nationals have copped in the past
for being too close to One Nation.
That’s why Nationals leader Lawrence Springborg has called on Quinn to
stand aside during the bribery investigation, saying on Friday that Quinn’s conduct was “against all principles which both parties
had espoused for the last couple of years”. And that’s why it now looks
as if the Nationals are trying to reopen the question of seat allocation
between the Coalition partners, and maybe win back some of the ground
they conceded in September.
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The deal to conduct “joint preselections” in six south-east Queensland
seats was already in trouble after the second of them, in Redlands,
produced a deadlock and the prospect of a three-cornered contest.
Queensland sources say the same outcome was looking likely in
Mudgeeraba; it was in the Liberal column last time, but Quinn may now be
too weak to defend his party’s position.
Peter Beattie just has to sit back and watch. Last week he said the Coalition parties “clearly need another term out of office and
another term thinking about where they are before they’ll be in a
position to govern Queensland”. Not much doubt that they’ll get that –
the question is whether it’ll do any good.