One of the hardy perennial issues of Australian politics is the joint Coalition Senate ticket in Queensland. It hasn’t come to fruition since 1977, but every election it gets talked about — and this year is no exception.
This morning’s Australian reports that the Prime Minister is still keen to negotiate a joint ticket, and has offered Nationals Senator Ron Boswell the third spot. Both the Queensland Liberals and the Nationals are evidently cool on the idea.
In 2004, Queensland was the crucial state for delivering Senate control to the Coalition. Running separate tickets, they won four seats, three Liberals and one National. With a joint ticket, only three would have got up.
That’s led some observers — such as a commenter this morning at Poll Bludger to question why Howard would want to abandon such a successful tactic.
But the fourth seat was touch and go last time; with a substantial swing to Labor on in Queensland, there’s no chance of repeating it this year. In terms of overall Senate control, Queensland won’t matter at all; the Coalition will win three seats. The only effect a joint ticket could have is on the intra-Coalition balance.
Howard supports a joint ticket for two reasons: he wants good relations with the Nationals for their own sake, having experienced Coalition disunity in the past, but he also knows that the Queensland Liberals are not his friends.
After all, look at who they have given him recently: George Brandis, who reportedly described him as a “lying rodent”; Brett Mason, who led the opposition to the terrorism and sedition laws; Russell Trood, who has shown himself a knowledgeable opponent of his foreign policy; and, of course, Santo Santoro, his factional supporter, who caused him more embarrassment than any number of opponents.
So it’s understandable for Howard to prefer having Ron Boswell back in the Senate. But the Queensland Liberals have nothing whatever to gain from agreeing to a joint ticket. With separate tickets, it’s a better than even chance that the three Coalition Senators will all be Liberals — in 2004, they outvoted the Nationals about six-to-one.
For the same reason, the Nationals would love a joint ticket, but at present they’re apparently holding out for getting Boswell the second spot. Since even the PM baulks at that idea, it looks like separate tickets will be running again.