March 07, 2004

How strong is Springborg’s grasp?

According to good Liberal sources one of the problems with reaching a coalition agreement is that Nationals leader Lawrence Springborg can’t deliver on any coalition deals.

Apparently Springborg owes his position to deputy Jeff Seeney. The original sticking point in the Coalition negotiations was that Seeney wanted to retain the position of Deputy Opposition Leader despite the previous agreement virtually giving this to the Liberal Party if they won seats in the last election.

As a result the Liberals demanded the right to run in all the seats on the Gold Coast. This is a problem for the National Party. While they are not likely to win those seats, they need a Gold Coast presence because a lot of their funding comes from supporters there. It also would mean a $28,000 pay cut for Seeney.

Twists and turns since have seen Jeff Seeney volunteer to take the Shadow Treasurer’s job in return for the demotion. This is a deal that the Liberal Party has never ever contemplated in the entire history of coalition negotiations, and won’t now. Traditionally the Nats take the majority of the big spending portfolios, but the Liberals always get to hold the purse strings.

The latest twist is a suggestion that there be three-cornered contests in all the Gold Coast seats.

Throughout the campaign I was hearing whispers that some of the Springborg promotion that made little electoral sense was designed to stave off internal foes by raising his profile and popularity to a position where he was unassailable. Similarly, many Liberals see his promotion of a single conservative party as being self-preservation rather than a way of furthering the cause.

Thoughts that the National Party might be about to explode mean that the Liberals are not all that keen on marrying up. They have experience of National Party leadership instability from 2001 when National Party leader Rob Borbidge was destroyed by his own party on the One Nation preference issue.

It will be better for both if they don’t start dating again yet. The Coalition negotiations have all the hallmarks of a couple doing what they have always done just out of habit. Two devastating election losses on the trot and neither party has properly analysed what happened and come up with a plan for change. Until they do, coalition negotiations will be about horse trading and egos but without a compelling rationale and will be extremely unattractive to voters. And it is voters after all that Coalition negotiations ultimately have to please.

Posted by Graham at 10:46 PM | Comments (1)
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