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Amalgamation is not the answer for the Liberal and National Parties

By David Fraser - posted Saturday, 15 June 2002

If there’s one thing that a period of electoral failure brings to the Liberal and National Parties in Queensland it is a rerun of the interminable arguments about the prospects of amalgamation between the two parties.

It has arisen again, fuelled by the sense of impending doom some Nationals feel for themselves as they endeavour to win back support from the ALP, the Liberals and a mixture of right-wing, populist Independents and One Nation left-overs.

Just as this argument consumed the parties in 1993-1994 it has the potential to do the same this year. This time, however, it seems to have a small cheer squad of Federal Liberals on the sidelines voicing their support. This contrasts with the debate of nearly a decade ago where the principal opponents of amalgamation were drawn from the ranks of Queensland Federal members.


The fact that the debate in 2002 has now become a vehicle for some Federal Liberals to pursue private vendettas unrelated to the issue of amalgamation, and more concerned with the internal machinations of the Queensland Division of the Liberal Party, is a matter of regret.

Fuel was added to the fire by the "on again – off again" comments of the Federal Finance Minister, Senator Nick Minchin, favouring amalgamation.

Against this background the simple question which both parties must face is whether individually and collectively they would be better off casting aside their separate identities, formally merging and sending both the Liberal and National Parties into history. This is exactly what was contemplated in 1994 but ultimately rejected.

At that time it was suggested that amalgamation would bring significant electoral benefits. The ALP under Wayne Goss was riding high in the polls. "Newspoll" found 49 percent of electors supporting the ALP compared with a combined 41 percent for the Liberal and National Parties in January-March 1994 – the height of the amalgamation moves. Wayne Goss received a 74 percent "satisfied" rating while he was preferred by a margin of 67 percent to 14 percent as Premier over then National leader, Rob Borbidge.

Twelve months later the Goss Government came within one seat of losing the election – by February 1996 it had been thrown out of office.

The political landscape has changed considerably since 1994. A seemingly unbeatable Labor Government is in office. However, the National Party has been reduced to a mere 12 seats following its inability to meet the challenge of a reinvigorated Labor Party and a hostile rural and regional constituency willing to embrace the nostrums of One Nation and its fellow travellers. On the other hand, the Liberal Party has just three members in Parliament, the result of its own inability to deal with One Nation and retain its credibility in the electorate.


Unfortunately for the Nationals, they now find themselves drinking in the "Last Chance" Saloon. Their traditional constituency has been alienated and has voted for challengers from both the right and the left. Their increasingly strident policy positions, taken in an effort to claw back this support, has made them an unpalatable alternative in the populous south-east.

The latest recorded opinion polls demonstrate the depths of the Nationals decline.

2001 Election 48.9 14.3 14.2
Morgan Poll
Jan-Feb 2002 52.5 23.0 8.5
Jan-Mch2002 45 26 9
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About the Author

David Fraser is a former State Director of the Queensland Division of the Liberal Party and a member of State Executive between 1994 and 1996.

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