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Political merger the only way forward for conservative politics

By Lawrence Springborg - posted Monday, 15 April 2002

In January of 1999 I made a public call for the National and Liberal parties to join together to form a new conservative political force in Queensland modelled on the Country Liberal party in the Northern Territory. The reaction was mixed. At that time the National Party had 23 seats in the Queensland Parliament and the Liberal Party 9. Just two years later the National Party have 12 seats and the Liberals 3, against that background, the imperative is surely greater.

To stay relevant to the electorate, a political party must model itself not by reference to the past but by reference to the future. Only when the electorate believes a political party is relevant to them and their future, will they put their confidence in it.

Political philosophies should not be measured against a particular party’s policies and initiatives. Rather, they should be judged by a party’s fundamental beliefs and values.


The National and Liberal Parties, whilst different in some areas of policy are substantially similar in their objectives and motivations. However, the reality is, neither is in a position to govern in Queensland in their own right, at least in the foreseeable future.

In fact, the National Party has a resolution on its books - passed almost a decade ago - supporting unification of the National and Liberal Parties in Queensland.

It is against this background that unification of the conservative political cause in Queensland is vital. However, to achieve this both parties must actively resolve to advance the cause of conservative politics rather than individual party positions.

Democracy can not properly function if one side of politics has an unbalanced and unhealthy majority. It was never designed to. The current Beattie Government enjoys a 43 seat majority in an 89 seat parliament. Such an imbalance requires a strong alternative conservative force.

The Northern Territory is the only State or Territory where the National and Liberals are in effect amalgamated. Interestingly, it is also the only State or Territory where the conservative vote has not splintered. Independents or minor political parties such as One Nation have never had the levels of support in the Northern Territory that they have had elsewhere. That in itself dispels any assertion that unification will create breakaways. If the new structure is strong and the policy position and platform of the new party relevant, then there is no reason for any great schism to pose any threat.

Personally I see a merger as a better option than a coalition. The reasons for this are simple. Unification immediately resolves the problem of three cornered contests and the difficulties posed by optional preferential voting because there will be one conservative party standing right across the State. It minimises policy differences because policy is developed as one party, nor will there be any hidden agenda as to which party is to be senior to the other. Further, it allows the scarce resources available for running a political campaign to be most effectively used for achieving one goal – a conservative government. Simply donors will not throw their money away by giving it to divided political causes.


Unification discussions must advance at the same time as coalition discussions, otherwise coalition becomes an excuse to put the inevitable on the never-never

Some contend that the existence of two conservative political parties is ‘crucial to the survival of the cause or body politic’. I believe this is not a view shared by the majority of people in the electorate. The conservative electorate at large views as folly the machinations of the Nationals and Liberals going toe for toe over largely the same constituency. They are far less polarised than those of us who are too involved. These people want an alternative conservative government. Therefore with politics being truly about representation and reflection of community desires we need to respond accordingly. If we are either incapable or unwilling to do so, then we deserve to fade into the political wilderness.

There will be some differences between people of National and Liberal Party background. However, a modern progressive, conservative political party can effectively manage any such differences with a structure and strategy tuned to society’s needs and desires.

Former National Party Parliamentary leader Rob Borbidge and former Party President Don McDonald vigorously pushed a merger in the early 1990’s. At the time it was met with much approval, but resulted in no effective action. This was the result of apathy on the part of members of both parties who saw no urgency to act. The current state of the parties must surely provide this sense of urgency. In fact, no one could argue that nine years later the circumstances of the parties have not deteriorated.

Therefore, it is time to take stock of our position. To focus on the values and beliefs inherent in conservative politics. There is little point having a policy position if it can never be implemented. It is, therefore, nothing short of ludicrous for the parties to hang their chances of being in position to implement policy on slight differences therein. Both parties must merge to go forward as a force worthy of holding Government in Queensland.

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This article was first published in The Courier-Mail.

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About the Author

Lawrence Springborg is Opposition Leader and the National Party Queensland member for Southern Downs.

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