Political life is starting to return to normal after the summer break. But in the Bizzaro-world of the Queensland Coalition, it’s always the silly season.
Witness yesterday’s announcement of a new Coalition agreement, in which Nationals leader Jeff Seeney and Liberal leader Bruce Flegg promised that they would be premier and deputy premier respectively in a Coalition government, regardless of which party had more seats.
In reality, of course, there is no way such an agreement could be made to stick: the prospect of the Liberals outnumbering the Nationals but being content to yield them the premiership simply isn’t credible.
And although the press release fudges the issue, The Courier Mail reports that Flegg’s promise “is not part of the 25-point formal Coalition agreement document released yesterday, so it would not be binding on him or any future Liberal leaders.”
By the time Queenslanders went to the polls last September, a Coalition government was just a pipe dream. But in the early stages of the campaign the issue of the premiership dogged both Coalition leaders, with Flegg in particular tying himself in knots.
The problem is that as long as the Coalition is in the wilderness, the Nationals are likely to stay the senior partner, because they have most of the safe seats. But the seats they would need to gain to win government are mostly in Liberal territory, so any hypothetical Coalition government would quite probably have a Liberal plurality.
Asking those swinging voters to elect a Nationals premier has not so far been a winning strategy. That’s not surprising, since polls show that Liberal support is about double the Nationals’. But the Coalition agreement continues to ignore that reality, and preserves Nationals candidates from Liberal challenge.
The Coalition is now in the sad position that its only way of defusing leadership as an issue is by pointing out that it has no chance of winning anyway: as Flegg said yesterday, it would be to “pull off the impossible”.