Finally. The Queensland
conservative parties have united to tackle the scandal-plagued Beattie state
government at the election due in 12 months. Well, that’s the theory, anyway.
Graham Young gave us the nuts and bolts at Ambit Gambit as news of the deal broke yesterday:

The Liberal and National Party Queensland organisations have met today and
agreed to “merge” the two state parties. While in fact a merger, it
will structurally mean the dissolution of the Queensland National Party, with its
assets and members being transferred to the Liberal Party.

John Howard is reported to be happy with the
arrangement while Mark Vaile, Deputy Prime Minister and National Party leader,
is said to be strongly opposed. The move appears to be agreeable to Lawrence Springborg and Bob Quinn,
the state National and Liberal Party leaders.

Under the agreement the Queensland National Party will join
the Liberal Party, and the Liberal Party’s constitution will be adjusted to
take account of some aspects of the National Party…

Well, this morning we’ve learned that the
PM ain’t happy. You can see where the problems begin.

Federal Nationals leader Mark Vaile insists
“that Queensland MPs did not want to join the Liberal Party, and said the NSW
and Victorian branches would not surrender to a forced merger,” according to
The Australian today. Queensland Senator George Brandis says the Liberal Party needs a merger
with the Nationals like a “hole in the head”.
Bob Katter’s notions of returning to the National fold are now out the window
– and Barnaby Joyce says a union of the state’s conservative parties would shut voters out if it were
applied to the federal level.

It’s easy to laugh at Barnyard – but for
once his comments are on the money:

You have to clearly represent the people who voted for
me and they were not Liberal voters, so I will not be joining the Liberal
Party…

People do not want to lose their small business voice
in Canberra and that would be lost if I had to follow the
disciplines of the Liberal Party machine.

Remember the 1998 Queensland state
election – and the swag of One Nation MPs put in parliament? Queensland
conservatives should. They were elected at their expense.

Greater co-operation between the Liberals and the
Nationals is a great idea – but unity? It scares off voters from both sides –
political fringe dwellers worried that the Nationals’ voice will be lost
amongst the Liberals and more cosmopolitan Liberal-inclined types worried about
the company the party’s suddenly keeping. Then there are all the tensions it’s
already causing at a federal level.

Peter Beattie’s indicated that he’s not
going to be rushed to the polls by the move. And why should he?

The Queensland Nationals are effectively a
safety valve. True, you’ve got to make sure you don’t get scalded by the steam
they let off – but better that than the boiler exploding.

Peter Fray

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