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Qld Liberals must stop the internal battles and focus on winning seats

By Graham Young - posted Wednesday, 17 September 2003

In some ways it would have been more accurate if Gerard Henderson had named his 1994 book Menzies' Children rather than Menzies' Child because the Liberal Party is an unruly family of state-based organisations rather than a unified whole.

This can make the job of running the Federal party extraordinarily frustrating.

While the Feds put on the public front, they are reliant on state-based satraps to provide the forces and failure by these to perform can put the whole empire at risk.


The runt of Menzies' litter is the Queensland Liberal Party and its state conference, last weekend, showed the federal leader's institutional weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

This was a crucial convention for the Libs.

Before Christmas 2004 they will have fought full election campaigns at each level of government - this is unparalleled in modern Queensland history and will tax all parties.

While the Liberals can rely on public funding and John Howard to tide them through the federal election they are really up against it at other levels of government.

So this convention should have been one that ensured competent people were in place to run campaigns and raise funds; gave a clean public platform to all three leaders; and welded the team together. It did none of these.

The Queensland Liberal party has been dominated by two factions for quite some time.


One of these, run by Senator Santo Santoro, is great at intra-organisational elections. The other, centred on Bob Tucker, is effective at winning elections to public office. Until recently neither side has been prepared to cede any power to the other, resulting in a situation where the dominant faction controls more and more of less and less.

This has frustrated Howard and state leader Bob Quinn, and an increasing number of rank and file branch members.

Last year, Quinn took on state president Michael Caltabiano, successfully reforming the party's rules and making it harder to rort preselections.

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This article was first published in The Courier-Mail on 16 September 2003.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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