Australian PM doesn’t support Queensland party amalgamation

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The highest ranking member of the Liberal Party of Australia, Prime Minister John Howard has said he would not support a joining together of the Queensland Liberal and National parties.

The Prime Minister said, pointedly: “There is one thing that I will fight for to my last political breath, is to preserve the nationwide unity of the Liberal Party of Australia. I don’t want any arrangement that in any way disturbs that”. Mr Howard’s statements come after the Queensland branches of both parties held separate meetings where the proposal to amalgamate them was supported in-principle.

In an interview with ABC Radio yesterday, Mr Howard said there had only been an agreement made to discuss whether a merger of the two parties should occur and that nothing was concrete at this stage. Mr Howard warned that the proposal would need to be discussed with both parties at a federal level and that the state’s decision would not be able to be made in isolation.

The Australian leader said that as the leader of the Liberal party he would not support any move that would dilute the party’s identity. “Now speaking for myself as leader of the Liberal Party throughout the country, I am totally opposed to anything that would alter the existing identity of the Liberal Party,” he said.

“I am opposed to any new name for the Liberal Party in Queensland, I don’t want New Liberals, or Old Liberals, I just want the Liberal Party of Australia operating throughout the country” Mr Howard told ABC Radio.

Mr Howard said that he believes the coalition between the Liberal and National parties had served him well over the past ten years and that he supports a close relationship between the two parties.

The Prime Minister hinted that the only merger he would support would be one in which the Liberal party takes over the National party. He said he would not support a new conservative party in the state.

While quick to say that he was not wishing for National party members to quit the national party and join the Liberals, it was noted Mr Howard did not say he was opposed to the idea.

In the statesman’s view the Queensland Liberals are part of a nation-wide party, and Mr Howard vowed to fight any proposal that would split them from the rest of the country.

Australia’s highest ranked National party member, Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile has said that he sees little need for change. He told ABC Radio that he believes the coalition have a “winning formula” federally. Mr Vaile also said he had concerns about how the proposal could affect the coalition at the federal level.

Mr Vaile said that the decision to merge would be left to the National party’s Queensland members. He said that the national party operates differently to other parties in that it is based at a divisional level within each state and then forms together federally. Essentially, each state branch can operate differently from others so long as it fits into the federal system.