The mainstream media is only today starting to mention that the most important
reason for the defection of Senator Julian McGauran from the Nationals
to the Liberals was a breakdown in his relationship with the leader of
the Nationals in the Victorian Parliament, Peter Ryan.

Ryan is a prickly customer at the best of times who unilaterally ended
the coalition agreement in Victoria after both parties were routed by Steve
Bracks at the 2002 election.

According to Ryan, the Nats who survived the Kennett defeat in 1999
were those that most prominently stood up to the domineering
Melbourne-centric Premier. Therefore, his political strategy going into this year’s state election
appears based around attacking the Liberals just as much as the Bracks
Government. Julian McGauran is a committed coalitionist and simply couldn’t fathom
Ryan’s political go-it-alone strategy.

So how will the Nats fare on November 25? The 10 sitting Victorian Nats are as follows, ranked from safest to most marginal:

Legislative Assembley


Noel Maughan:
Rodney, margin 19.95% over Liberal

Hugh Delahunty:
Lowan, margin 17.08% over ALP
Peter Walsh:Swan Hill, margin 14.15% over ALP
Ken Jasper: Murray Valley, margin 13.89% over ALP
Peter Ryan:Gippsland South, margin 10.15% over ALP
Jeanette Powell:Shepparton, margin 4.27% over Liberal
Bill Sykes:Benalla, margin 1.97% over Labor

Legislative Council

Peter Hall:Gippsland Province (2002), margin 2.01% over ALP
Damian Drum:North Western Province (2002), margin 0.45% over ALP (having finished 3rd on primaries)
Barry Bishop:North Western Province (1999), margin 5.32% over ALP
Bill Baxter: North East Province (1999): margin 10.20% over ALP

(North East Province 2002: Nats finished 3rd on primary as Liberals beat ALP with 8.75% margin).

Given
the long term declining trend for the Nationals and the damage of the
McGauran defection, it is fair to assume the Nats will probably
lose Benalla and Shepparton in the lower house.

Under the new
proportional voting system in the upper house, Antony Green projected
that
a repeat of the 2002 vote would see them reduced from four seats to
just one, meaning they would probably drop from 10 to 6 overall,
thereby losing party status and influence.

The Greens could even gazump
them as the third party given their strong prospects in the two lower
house seats of Richmond and Melbourne and the likelihood they’ll win up
to six upper house seats.

A Coalition agreement in Victoria might have seen the Nats good for a
couple of upper house seats, but Ryan’s approach is extremely combative
as you tell from this feral press release he put out about McGauran on
Wednesday and other provocative outbursts Paul Austin refers to in The Agetoday.