At the outset of his career, Ron Boswell could have been aptly described as an accidental senator. Boswell was third on the Nationals’ senate ticket in Queensland, and was elected because of the popularity of Flo Bjelke-Petersen. Back in 1983, the Queensland Nationals had made deep inroads into Brisbane and were able to elect three senators at a double dissolution poll.

In recent elections, they’ve been unable to round up a quota on first preferences.

On Wednesday, Crikey reported on the veteran Boswell’s upcoming preselection battle against a candidate who was second on the ticket to Barnaby Joyce, army officer James Baker, 39. Crikey can now reveal that Boswell has what he thinks is an ace up his sleeve for the Central Council meeting on Saturday. Lady Flo will be speaking in his favour to delegates.

It’s reasonable, though, to wonder whether Joh would have done Boswell the same favour. Boswell’s career began at a time when the Nationals were about to govern Queensland in their own right, and his early years in the Senate saw the Joh for Canberra campaign. Boswell has stayed in Canberra for over 20 years, but these days when the Nationals want some oomph for their profile in states such as South Australia and Victoria, they turn to his colleague Barnaby Joyce.

Nationals sources believe that Boswell’s decision to run again, after he’d made it clear some time ago that he’d be stepping down this term, is driven by Howard and Vaile’s desire to keep Joyce on a tight leash. But while Howard has stuck to a formula in other preselections of a bare endorsement of the sitting member, his intervention in the Nationals’ affairs with ringing praises for Boswell has not gone down well in some quarters of the notoriously independent Queensland party.
Particularly since many members believe that only a candidate in the Barnaby mould can hold on to the senate seat in next year’s election.

Will the support of the lady who began Boswell’s career be enough to save it? Late mail is that the numbers could still go either way.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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