Sunday, 5 October 2008

Turmoil in Queensland major party politics

On 5 October 2008, Labor state member for Indooroopilly Ronan Lee jumped ship and joined the Greens.

Labor supporters have been quick to label this as an opportunistic move; in a state where the Greens have battled to win elections at any level, it's hard to see how this could be so.

I'd like to point out that the opposition Liberal National Party has a big problem. Inner city voters don't like the Nationals, and the Nationals are in control of the LNP. To anyone who says Lee should have resigned his seat: I hope you said the same about the LNP.

Views on comment sites are interesting. Some claim he is just jumping ship to protect himself against the shift away from Labor; that being the case, why didn't he join the second biggest party? There are many green-leaning Liberals in his electorate. It is hardly self-serving to join a small party that is struggling to win elections. At worst, it buys him another year in state parliament. At best, a lonely time in the next lower house with few if any members on his team. Anyone thinking he is taking the easy way out obviously has no clue how much harder members of small parties have to work just to keep up let alone to get ahead.

It's a hard adjustment to accept that there are some politicians with principles. Had I been a Labor state member, I would have had difficulty holding down my lunch let alone staying in my seat when Anna Bligh said not so long ago that Labor had such great environmental credentials, Greens would have no problem preferencing them.

If you are elected on the basis that you have certain principles and your party claims to uphold those principles but clearly doesn't, what do you do? Be honest and quit the party, giving up the perks of a parliamentary secretary and the possibility of being elevated to the cabinet, or stay on to become another Peter Garrett with a tight muzzle and a short leash?

Meanwhile the notion that the conservative side of politics stands for sound financial management has been ripped apart by the turmoil on Wall Street and, closer to home, the rates revolt in Brisbane where a Liberal (LNP now, I guess) administration is taxing unit owners out of their homes.

Anna Bligh has given the Greens a head start by claiming that her environmental credentials were so good, no Greens voter would have trouble preferencing the ALP. Tell the good people at the Mary River that. Tell the people at Felton who are threatened with having their farms ripped up for a coal mine that. Ms Bligh's first response was that this was a stange move, as only governments can protect the environment. Let me repeat my two-word response to that: Peter Garrett. She has also shot herself in the foot by making contradictory claims. On the one hand, Ronan Lee had never expressed any environmental concerns to her. On the other hand, he wasn't able to function as a member of a disciplined team. What does that mean? Either she was aware of his dissent from party positions, making her first claim nonsensical, or he was dissenting on some other range of undisclosed issues. And in any case, you do not appoint a loose cannon who is out of line with party principles as a parliamentary secretary, generally a precursor to elevation to the cabinet.

Interesting times, and Queensland politics is shaping up for a really interesting state election.

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