Former premier Campbell Newman (left) was a beneficiary of Lawrence Springborg’s LNP.
Former premier Campbell Newman (left) was a beneficiary of Lawrence Springborg’s LNP.

Borg plan ultimately failed to assimilate

JUST under 10 years ago, a great political experiment was launched when the Queensland conservative giants the Nationals were merged with the Brisbane-based, more genteel Liberals.

It was based on the theory it would not only present unity to voters, but also stop three-cornered contests with Labor, minimise policy differences and offer a stark choice at elections.

It was sound theory, and was finally vindicated in 2012 when Campbell Newman stormed home with the largest majority in Australian political history.

But the merger hadn't been a unanimous decision, and some significant figures argued forcefully against it.

Former premier Campbell Newman (right) was a beneficiary of Lawrence Springborg’s LNP.
Former premier Campbell Newman (right) was a beneficiary of Lawrence Springborg’s LNP.

Grandees John Howard, Ron Boswell and Barnaby Joyce warned a single party that straddled so much ground - from inner-city Brisbane cafes to the abattoirs of Longreach - could leave one flank exposed, and open an opportunity for a new parasitic party.

It was always the Right of the Nationals/Liberals these and other naysayers were worried about.

Last night we saw what happens when that Right flank is too exposed. The LNP was attacked by two forces: Katter's Australian Party and One Nation.

The Katters look like adding one seat to their existing two, while One Nation had a shocking election result but still managed to wreak havoc on the LNP's chances.

One Nation has won one seat, maybe two, and could only manage about half of the vote share it was boasting of early on.

However it did hoover up votes from the LNP in key seats, and only returned a bit over half of that support, with much of the rest bleeding to Labor.

Preference flows from One Nation look like helping to elect up to 10 ALP MPs, in seats where the LNP would have almost certainly won without this parasitic presence.

While the theory of the 2008 merger was sound, it is time to revisit this decision and stress-test it in 2017. It looks like the experiment may have had a nine-year shelf life.

Dennis Atkins is The Courier-Mail's national affairs editor



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