They didn’t get as much coverage as they ought to have, but 4BC presenter Michael Smith’s interviews yesterday with Mal Brough – now ex-Liberal President — and Geoff Greene — ex State Director but, apparently, still the “registered officer” of the party — have shown what a complete and utter debacle the Liberal-National merger has become.

Brough — who had just resigned as president shortly before the interview — informed Smith that Greene had no authority to apply for the deregistration of the Liberal Party, either from himself or from Federal President Alan Stockdale.

Greene then came on and told Smith that he had all the authority in the world to deregister the party as he was — despite quitting as State director — the official “registered officer” of the party and that he had the president’s authority to do so.

Not president Mal Brough, but president Bruce McIver, president of the Liberal National Party. He politely suggested Brough’s view that he was president of anything was “mistaken or confused” and that Brough was being “fanciful” and “nonsensical”. He stopped short of calling him a liar.

Boy, when the Nationals move in, they really move in, don’t they? They’re like party guests who sell your house from under you. Or, in the case of the Liberal Party’s Brisbane headquarters, change the locks.

Party vice-president Gary Spence subsequently told The Australian that he had the approval of both Federal president Alan Stockdale and Federal director Brian Loughnane (written approval in the latter’s case) to proceed with deregistration — something that came as news to Stockdale and Loughnane.

Here’s the tricky bit for Brough and anyone else opposed to the deregistration. The process is undertaken under the Queensland Electoral Act 1992, s.75. It says the Queensland Electoral Commission may deregister a party on the application of its registered officer. Greene is the registered officer, without a shadow of a doubt.

The Commission may deregister a party if it no longer exists — which the Nationals would argue is the case with the Liberals — or if it doesn’t have 500 members, if it doesn’t stand any candidates in two elections running, there was fraud or misrepresentation involved in the party’s establishment, its constitution doesn’t comply or false information was provided about it.

The Electoral Commission must advertise the application for deregistration. It did so earlier this week. People have 14 days to lodge objections, which the Commission must consider.

But no one other than the registered officer — Greene — has any standing in the process.

I commented last week that this wasn’t so much a takeover as a political slaughter. The Nationals, having taken control of the new party, gerrymandering its constitution, dominating its membership and controlling its preselection process, are now trying to obliterate what’s left of the Liberal Party in Queensland. Deregistration is the political equivalent of extermination.

This will end up in court — unless Alan Stockdale backs down again. Every time the Nationals have decided to hang tough on merger issues, he has blinked.

No wonder Mal Brough quit. He knows how little backing he has received from Stockdale throughout the merger saga. And that’s a problem for the Liberals, because they need people of the calibre of Brough in the party, in Parliament, trying to win back power. They’re not so endowed with talent down in Canberra that they can afford to drive the likes of Brough out.

Peter Fray

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