My esteemed colleague Terry Barnes, here in the ethereal pages of the Speccie Australia, this morning wrote a ‘Double Shot’ briefing piece that amounted to a critique of the Campbell Newman decision to run for a Senate spot in Queensland. Terry’s argument was that Campbell has no chance of winning that last Senate spot and then, secondly, that he shouldn’t run anyway because to do so would be damaging to the conservative side of politics. In keeping with the vigorous exchange of views in this magnificent publication let me here briefly say why Terry is flat out (or if you like Flat White) wrong.
Take the two points in the order Terry does. So first off, can Campbell Newman win? Easily he can in my view. Like just about every commentator going, many on our side of politics, Terry mentions Newman’s history as Queensland premier – first a massive victory but followed by a loss. Campbell took on too much and too many. And that’s correct, he did. I’d add to that by saying Newman didn’t bother to get advice from long-time conservatives on his side of politics (witness the fiasco with his judicial picks). Terry mentions the vitriolic attacks on Newman about schools, hospitals and the like but what he fails to point out –- virtually no one does –- is that the Newman loss was a very narrow loss. Let me put it this way. Despite the Labor scare campaign, despite Newman’s own ‘all guns blazing on all fronts’ approach, and despite his rookie errors of consulting too narrowly, he barely lost. By two seats it was. And the LNP under Newman -– in that supposed drubbing that ‘destroy[ed] his massive majority’ (to use the Barnes’ formulation) -– still got more first preferences than Labor. A tad over 40 percent I recall. I would also say that at the time I thought a fair few voters wanted to send Newman a message, not to have him lose. And they calculated wrongly.
But here’s the thing. No LNP leader since that very close 2015 Newman loss has performed anywhere near as well as Newman did. Newman went all-in with policies, with strong beliefs, and with a sort of non-careerist approach to politics, and he barely lost. Since then the ‘play it safe and stand for nothing’ types have run LNP campaigns. They and their approach have been destroyed by Labor. More than once.
What’s my point? It’s that I believe that Newman easily has enough Queensland support to make the quota to win the last Queensland Senate spot. In fact, it won’t be as hard as Barnes says. If you take 100 and divide by 6 (the number of Queensland Senators to be elected) you do get the 16.66% quota Terry mentions. But in practice, you have to remember the failed seventh candidate’s votes. So the needed quota for the first five elected senators is more like 14 or 15 per cent. And with the sixth and last person to be elected remember that not all preferences flow. At the last election, one under the Turnbull-Greens’ new rules, the last senate spots were won with 10 per cent of first preferences, or even less than that. So that is what Mr Newman needs to win. He needs a solid coterie of people fed up with our civil liberties’ infringing Covid response madness perpetrated by Morrison and Co.; he needs just over a tenth of voters who believe the Libs have given up on small government, on freedom, on any attachment to what used to be their core values.
I think Newman will take that last spot. More on that at the end.
The second point Terry makes is a ‘should not’ one. By doing this Campbell Newman is making life tougher on the Coalition at the next election. And he’ll make it near on impossible for one of the real conservatives in the Liberal partyroom -– Amanda Stoker -– to win that sixth and final Senate spot.
I’m afraid that here I disagree with Terry right down the line. The Coalition has been a value-free disaster since the 2015 Turnbull defenestration of Tony Abbott. For over six years conservatives have worked inside the party structures to try to change that. Nothing has worked. It looked, briefly, as though the turfing out of Turnbull and the replacing of him with Scott Morrison would be a step in the right direction. That may well have been true in normal circumstances. But since the pandemic Morrison has jettisoned even the microscopic freedom and small government principles he might have held. He has overseen the biggest inroads on your and my freedoms and civil liberties in the peacetime history of this country. He and Mr Frydenberg have presided over the most massive spending of any government.
It is completely understandable why Mr Newman has quit the LNP and why he is running for a different party. Internal pressure has not worked. That is known, in the philosophy of science, as ‘the facts’. We need a British-style Brexit Party or a Canadian-style Reform Party that pushes the main supposedly right-of-centre party to – you know – stand for something, anything, that is conservative.
That leaves Ms Stoker. I like her. I hope she can stay in parliament. She is a rare sane voice in the Liberal partyroom. But in no moral universe that I know of is Campbell Newman, and whatever political party he opts to join, responsible for the fact that the LNP put her third on their ticket. Let me be blunt, the geniuses in the LNP decided to give the number one slot to one of the main architects of the Turnbull coup against Abbott. They did that, not Campbell. They pushed Ms Stoker down to the third spot. Heck, one of the big beasts in the partyroom whom I really like, Peter Dutton, supported not Stoker but the Turnbull coup advisor, James McGrath.
So in no world that I inhabit would Campbell Newman be responsible for the sad fact that Stoker got knocked out of Parliament. Our PM, Mr Morrison, didn’t raise a finger to help Stoker. He can respond overnight to alarmist ABC claims of anti-women actions in the Liberal Party but when it’s a real conservative woman that needs help? Nada. Nothing. (The clue may be in the fact she’s a real conservative, readers.)
Last thing Terry. Let’s put a $100 bottle of wine on this. Winner picks what he wants. As long as there are any lockdown or border restrictions in play at the time of the next election, any at all, I say that Newman wins a Queensland Senate spot. You win if he doesn’t. Do you feel lucky? Let me know.
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