In one of the funnier stories of political aspiration filling the silly season vacuum, Barnyard wants a Reps seat, no Nat wants to give him one – but most Libs seem to be pretty keen on getting him out of the Senate.
Oh the wicked webs we weave!
It’s actually hard to figure out who is being played for the fool here. If Barnaby leaves the Senate, there is no guarantee that whatever entity is calling itself the conservative side of politics in QLD come 2010 will give a Nat Barnaby’s old Senate spot on the ticket at the next election, especially if the LNP get beaten at the impending QLD State election (as looks increasingly likely – not that it was ever really in doubt) and the merged monster does what Liberals and Nationals tend to do in the face of defeat in QLD – blame each other before launching an orgy of political retribution.
In that hostile post-QLD election climate where the merged Queensland LNP beast falls apart at the seams, there is absolutely no certainty that the Libs and the Nats will agree to run a joint ticket for the Senate in 2010, leaving open the likelihood of the Liberals taking 2 spots, the ALP taking 2 spots and opening the game up for the Libs, the Nats, the Greens and the ALP to fight it out for the final 2 QLD Senate positions, of which there is no guarantee of the Nats winning either of them.
Meanwhile, Barnaby’s Excellent Adventure chasing a Reps seat has turned comical.
Barnaby represents what is probably the final chance for the Nats to avoid oblivion by taking over the leadership, positioning the party toward a much more independent line and doing something profound in Nats circles – actually representing the interests of their constituents.
Brendon Grylls in WA has shown what is probably the sole remaining path for preventing the extinction of the National Party – independence – and Barnaby at least has the credibility to pull that off. With such a widespread view in the electorate of the National Party being little more than convenient fools for the Libs (witness the way strong rural independents have been slicing their way through National Party heartland), there is no other National Party member in Parliament that could credibly change that perception or get away with such a huge repositioning . So saying, when Barnaby is your last, best hope it truly highlights the depths of you troubles.
So where can Barnaby find a Reps seat?
Maranoa is the obvious choice – it takes in his base town of St George and he has a strong local following – but sitting member, tired has been and the epitome of everything that is wrong with the National Party, Bruce Scott, is channeling Charlton Heston’s greatest NRA convention moments and giving Barnyard the “from my cold, dead hands” spiel. I suppose that’s to be expected, old Nats like Bruce Scott think Lower House seats come with life membership options.
So, rather than the 65 year old Bruce Scott actually doing the most constructive thing he’s ever done in his political career – retire and give the younger Barnyard a chance to save the Nats from oblivion and themselves – he appears to be hell bent on keeping a rare, super strong National Party seat that should be used for developing the party leadership, all to himself.
Ron Boswell – another National Party anachronism and traitor to the living standards of rural people everywhere – either had an acute bout of arsehattery or flicked the bird to Barnaby by suggesting that if Joyce wants a Reps seat, he should take on the electoral powerhouse and Independent Member for New England, Tony Windsor.
Windsor and Boswell don’t much like each other; Boswell represents to Windsor everything that is wrong with the Nats – a coalitionist lickspittle that is too eager to sell out the interests of rural people for a façade of government influence and personal gain via promotion to the front bench in a Coalition administration. Windsor on the other hand (remembering that Windsor was once a Nat before he got screwed over by some Machiavellian empire building in preselection for the State Seat of Tamworth) represents to Boswell everything that Boswell could never be; politically competent and popular and thoroughly independent – something I’m sure Windsor can live with.
Barnaby wouldn’t stand a chance against Tony Windsor – Jesus Christ himself would be forced to preferences if he stood against Windsor in New England – which makes one ponder just what sort of venom was bubbling beneath the surface of Boswell’s thinking.
The other two seats mentioned have been Flynn and Dawson, both currently held by Labor and they’re worth having a squiz at.
Flynn is a dubious long term proposition because of the composition of the population, where the population growth is occurring in the seat and the demographic change that is accompanying that growth.
The growth strip is the coastal strip that starts a few clicks north of Rockhampton and extends all the way through to and including Gladstone. Growth in this corridor is not and will never again be rural – it’s typical QLD coastal growth that is made up of a wide variety of local and interstate migrants from smaller country towns, larger regional centers and capital cities. The composition of that growth waters down the National Party constituency and the Gladstone growth is more akin demographically to outer suburbia than old fashioned regional provincial centers. QLD coastal seats are quickly becoming a Liberal/Labor contest because of demographic change and there’s not a great lot the Nats can do about that. While Flynn still has 14.5% of the employment coming from agriculture and fishing, it also has mining over 7% and manufacturing at 11% (both strong Labor cohorts) to balance against the ag sector.
The other proposed seat is Dawson which is a slightly better long term Nat prospect even though the growth corridor is again coastal (but patchy), starting at Mackay and running up through Proserpine into Bowen. Agriculture and fishing makes up only 7% of the employment – less than accommodation and food services. Mining is just under 6% and manufacturing just under 10%, meaning that it’s a hard slog for a Nat these days, being unable to rely on their agricultural base, as the last election suggested. However, being isolated, the seat is susceptible to that radical brand local politics that involves the usual Us vs. The Capital Cities spiel that is usually accompanied with promises of large dollops of government largesse – the type of politics that De-Anne Kelly played well as the local member.
The two big “buts” here though, are how north QLD has a habit of being politically volatile and how the next redistribution in QLD may change the political dynamics of these seats. Dawson would be a dangerous seat for a leader of a political party to hold – not to mention a big headache. Leaders do best in safe seats where their electoral attention can be spread across the country without worrying too much about their own local electoral fortunes. Witness the time Howard had to waste in Bennelong at the last election.
The other “but”, the redistribution, will likely move the boundaries of these seats somewhat and could change the dynamics in unexpected ways depending upon the way the new boundaries might be shifted
If Barnaby wants to lead the Nats to a more independent future, he would be as mad as a cut snake to attempt to do it from Dawson because of where it is (and the political history of North QLD), and Flynn isn’t a realistic long term prospect unless the redistribution changes it in quite an unusual way.
His best hope is to start stacking branches in Maranoa and boot out that useless has been Bruce Scott – which also wouldn’t harm the wider electoral perception of the Nats in the process. If Barnyard culled some dead wood in his own party first, it could only help him in his pursuit to change the face of the Nats to make them appear more independent.
But by running to the Reps, he does open up the prospect of losing a National Party Senate spot in QLD.