It was compelling viewing last Friday night when Stateline in Victoria gave Senator Julian McGauran a platform to explain himself for the first time since his defection from the National Party to the Liberals back in January. You can read the transcript here, but to get the full impact of McGauran’s cluelessness you really had to see it.

The interview seemed to have been carefully teed up; there was no real commentary and no contrasting voices. But they weren’t needed: McGauran obediently dug his own grave.

Victoria is just heading into an election campaign in which the Liberal and National Parties will be at each other’s throats, as they have been for most of the past 50 years. Yet McGauran thinks that “in country Victoria … [t]here’s no or little distinction between the National and the Liberal Party. So for all intents and purposes they’ve already merged …”.

Of course, he’s talking about federal politics, but that’s the point: he shows no comprehension of the fact that they’re the same parties, whether state or federal. Commenting on how different life is in the Liberal Party, he says “In the National Party I never had to campaign for marginal seats”.

Well, no. He certainly didn’t have to campaign for his Senate seat, which, courtesy of the Liberals, had been safe since 1993. And obviously the state Nationals had never got him to campaign in their marginal seats. On the evidence of Friday night, you can see why.

The National Party is indeed in deep trouble; no special “wisdom” was required for McGauran to see that he was better off leaving this particular ship. But one of their biggest problems is the longstanding habit of relying on charity from the Liberals while continually biting the hand that feeds them. As a beneficiary of this tactic for so long, McGauran is poorly placed to criticise it.

Despite McGauran calling it a “leap of faith”, there was never the slightest doubt that the Liberals would accept his membership application. But if this is the best he can do with six months preparation, they must be wondering what they’ve done. The already slim chance that they would preselect him again when his current term expires in 2011 now looks even slimmer.