The fractious Queensland Coalition has been, well, fracturing over negotiations for a joint Senate ticket. Last night they made the decision to band together.

But many Nats I’ve been speaking to over past weeks are not convinced this is the best solution for their party. It’s seen by many as John Howard’s perennial fix for problems of disunity in Queensland. What’s more, my sources argue that the third spot is unwinnable, so toxic has Howard’s rep become in rural and regional Queensland.

The joint Senate ticket represents the first time the Libs and Nats have run together for the Senate for decades. But upper house Nats leader Ron Boswell is only being offered the third spot, and Barnaby Joyce doesn’t think there should be a joint ticket at all.

In 2001, Boswell won his seat by running as the anti-Pauline candidate. Brisbane voters were treated to the unlikely spectacle of members of the Chinese community handing out Nats how to votes at metropolitan booths. But, this time around, Hanson is more of a tawdry reality TV star than a serious threat, and Nats sources say her run is driven by greed and ego.

Nationals members argue that the party can only hold on to a seat by strongly differentiating themselves from their Liberal Coalition partners. There’s broad disappointment in the Queensland party that despite promises from Mark Vaile last year, little has been heard from the federal Nats on the policy front. “Strong Coalitionist” Boswell is said to be caught between a rock and a hard place.

In 2004, when there was no joint ticket, Barnaby Joyce won his seat in his own right and the Libs picked up three Senators. This year, most commentators think the Libs would be very lucky indeed to score more than two seats, leaving Boswell out in the cold.

While many state Nats may fear going down with the sinking Liberal ship, the obvious counter-argument is that this stoush could punch more holes in the Coalition hull. It may well be that a lose-lose scenario is being played out in Queensland.

Peter Fray

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