Could divorce – on the grounds of irreconcilable differences – be on the horizon for Queensland’s bruised Liberal National Party?
At least one political analyst thinks so, and veteran Nationals MP Vaughan Johnson says the marital bed is decidedly frosty after the merged party’s poor showing in Saturday’s state election.
It’s been almost a decade since Queensland’s Liberal and National parties exchanged vows after a long and difficult courtship.
Mr Johnson supported the union back then, as a solution to three-cornered contests and to stop the inevitable questions about whether a National or a Liberal would be premier.
But he now views it as a mistake that has cost rural and regional Queensland dearly.
“Even though at the time I supported it, I don’t support it now,” he said, though he stopped short of calling for a demerger.
“The situation now is that rural and regional Queensland are second-rate citizens. The Newman government was a classic example of ruling from the southeast. And that’s half the problem, why we’re in disarray now.”
It’s a view that appears to be shared by some federal Nationals who, in lamenting One Nation’s split of the conservative vote in Queensland, are openly talking about the traditionally rural party’s identity crisis.
In a new headache for the prime minister, rogue federal Nationals MP George Christensen, who hails from Queensland’s north, took to Facebook to apologise to people who voted for One Nation, suggesting the LNP had driven them away.
” … we need to listen more, work harder, stand up more for conservative values and regional Queensland and do better to win your trust and your vote,” he wrote. And then he dumped the Queensland result firmly in Malcolm Turnbull’s lap.
“I think a lot of that starts with the Turnbull government, its leadership and its policy direction.”
Cabinet minister Matt Canavan also piped up saying the Nationals had to maintain its identity at the federal realm, and spoke of the importance of the party having its own campaign machinery.
“That is the clear message from last night: people in the regions want to have someone in their corner fighting for them,” Senator Canavan told ABC TV.
And that, Mr Johnson says, is precisely where things have gone so terribly wrong for the LNP.
“There’s been a lot of bulls*** for a long time about what’s going on, not only in Queensland, but in the federal sphere and the way the regions have been treated by the hierarchy of the party,” says Mr Johnson, who served as chief whip in the former Newman LNP government.
“This isn’t just recently. I’ve been talking to my former and current colleagues for a long while. This has got to change.”