Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t believe politics has to involve confrontation, opposition and conflict as it does under the two-party system.
Despite the spin which is already being trotted out, the Queensland election result delivers the people’s verdict on the merger of the National and Liberal parties. They didn’t want it.
Politicians wanted it because it made everything much simpler for them. Black and white. No three-cornered contests, less cost.
I’m an advocate of the Brendon Grylls “balance of power” role for the Nationals. Most times they will support a Liberal government, but occasionally they should flirt with Labor if it means getting a better deal for the country, and just to stop the Liberals taking them for granted.
There should never be a coalition in opposition.
Historically, opposition years were important for the Country Party to build its brand, although it wasn’t expressed in marketing terms like that in the past.
Constant coalitions in opposition beg the obvious question: why have separate parties? Why indeed.
There is a role for an independent country party, in my opinion. That role is to secure the best deal for country people from Liberal and Labor.
I wrote previously about Sir Thomas Playford and how in his 26-year reign he presided over a merged party, the Liberal and Country League.
I’m not contradicting myself by now arguing for an independent country party. The South Australian merger was only forged after the conservatives agreed to an electoral weighting that guaranteed two country seats for every seat in Adelaide.
That’s no longer the case, of course, and the South Australian Liberal Party today bears no resemblance to the Country Party and does not promote policies of decentralisation or the like.
While Playford was in power the LCL was predominantly a country party. Those values have now been lost, just as they will be lost in Queensland.
Playford practised unconfrontational politics. He enjoyed Labor support on many issues and he was never part of the conservative Adelaide establishment. He was more a Country Party figure than a Liberal.
Part of his legacy though is that South Australia does not have a strong country party.
The Nationals have struggled with their identity for at least 20 years now.
In my view they either need to merge with the Liberals or follow the “balance of power” route, which I prefer.
Under the “balance of power” model they don’t oppose Labor for the sake of it, they broker deals and seek to win advantage for their constituents.
That’s what politics should be about, not the pursuit of power for power’s sake.