In the end, the conquerors didn’t even need the collaborators. As if to confirm that this was a complete Nationals takeover, Gary Spence — nominee of the pro-merger Santo Santoro faction — was brushed aside and Nationals President Bruce McIver installed as inaugural president of the Liberal National Party.
At least the Liberals get to go first in the name, if nowhere else.
Santoro might wonder if it was a waste of money printing all those “Yes” t-shirts for the weekend frolic, although admittedly they sound far more appealing than the tees sporting “I’m Borgalicious”, on offer from the Nats (a Jeri Ryan reference, presumably). Maybe Santo figured he had the measure of the country cousins, but it turns out they were rather too clever for him.
By way of celebration, Lawrence Springborg embarrassingly tried his hand at some highflying rhetoric, but his “Sofitel Address” won’t exactly go down as one of the great political speeches, even by northern standards. Queenslanders will now have to endure the braying of this two-time loser about “a new Queensland” between now and the next election, and that probably can’t come soon enough.
Springborg predictably emphasised the “LNP” — designed to distract voters from the party’s actual name, the Liberal National Party, which if spelt out might remind them that it’s the same clutch of dribbling hicks and divided incompetents they’ve rejected for a decade. This is the sort of half-arsed, lazy sleight-of-hand that the Nationals think will convince Queenslanders — especially those in the south-east corner — to drop a couple of dozen IQ points and vote for them.
Good luck fellas.
Many Liberal members, abandoned by their party, are considering bailing out. Their party might have been dysfunctional, but hundreds of moderates who believe in and are prepared to work for the core values of personal freedom, liberty and enterprise, have been betrayed by the party’s Right faction and members so desperate to win they’ll buy any purported route to victory. The Queensland Nationals share none of their basic beliefs. The Nationals exist to promote the systematic abuse of government revenue and regulatory arrangements for the benefit of selected, primarily regional, industries and businesses, coupled with a social conservatism founded in pig ignorance and redneckery. Their record in government is one of corruption, rorting, rank incompetence and intolerance.
And this “LNP” is merely the National Party with a Liberal rump.
Contributing to the bitterness is the speed with which some Liberals MPs changed tack to ensure they were on the winning side. One member of the Dickson Federal Electorate Council told Crikey that Peter Dutton had gone from urging them to fight the merger a couple of months ago to aggressively attacking Mal Brough and backing the merger on the weekend, to the disgust of those who have worked hard for him.
Wiser heads among the moderates are urging caution. An anti-merger Federal politician is telling supporters to wait before resigning — there may yet be a twist in the tale when it comes to Federal Liberal approval, and if they resign now they won’t be able to participate in any future votes, which may be significant. Alan Stockdale appeared to quash those hopes on the weekend, declaring that the new party would be ticked off by the Liberals federally. There’s a view that he’s merely waiting for the excitement to die down before moving against the new party.
But on his previous performance, that sort of subtlety appears well beyond him. He started off declaring that a Liberal president was absolutely crucial for federal approval, then pulled back to offering a shared presidency, then tried a last minute attempt to stop the merger, and when that failed, simply caved in. He has been totally humiliated by the hicks and white shoe brigaders of the Nationals.
And there’s someone else who tried to stop the merger going ahead — Brendan Nelson. To say Nelson’s been playing catch-up on events in Queensland is overly generous — the bloke hadn’t even got onto the field before full-time. But he’ll soon be an ex-opposition leader. It’s no surprise his own party was happy to nod, smile politely, and entirely ignore him.
Mal Brough was the leader of the losing cause, but had the guts to front up on the weekend and put his case. He behaved with dignity, despite being treated shabbily by his gleeful opponents. He has indicated he will have nothing to do with the LNP and is said to be reconsidering his political future altogether. With people like Nelson and Stockdale in charge, you can’t blame him.