Modia Minotaur

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Nats Receive Their Own Surprise `Reshuffle'

Nationals Senator Julian McGuaran (brother of the higher profile Peter McGuaran, the Minister for Agriculture, who is nonetheless famous enough for ringing in the new Howard-controlled Senate with a kindly middle finger in the face of the Federal Opposition ... charming man), has announced he plans to quit the National Party to join the Liberal Party, saying there is `no policy differentiation' between the two parties. Nationals Leader Mark Vaile is furious, and has demanded McGuaran resign from parliament altogether.

While not the earthshattering news it might have been had McGuaran decided to quit the Coalition altogether and go independent (now, wouldn't that have been fascinating), McGuaran's stance is indicative of a wider malaise facing the National Party. A Coalition is a tricky thing in a parliamentary system such as Australia's, which isn't really built for them, unlike more complex (and some would argue, more representative) democracies such as Denmark in which outright majority party leadership is rare. This is doubly so in the case of a Coalition such as the Liberal-National, where one partner is clearly dominant, and one clearly on the decline. Yet like it or not, the Liberals without the Nationals would be unelectable - even with preference sharing. They just don't get enough votes (the situation in Queensland, where the parties are not in Coalition, is ample illustration of this).

As for the Nationals, it appears they have two directions to take - one, to drift further into the realms of Liberals in Moleskins and thus, irrelevance, lack of policy differentiation, and votes lost to energetic Independents of the likes of Tony Windsor, Peter Andren and Dawn Fardell; or embrace the equally energetic, motivated, though sometimes misguided likes of Barnaby Joyce.

Either way, the Coalition will continue; a sad little marriage of convenience that will endure no matter how unhappy Lady Lib and Mr Nat are behind the scenes.

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