The ghosts that shadow Palmer's party

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November 30, 2012 – 8:06AM

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Tony Moore

Tony Moore senior reporter

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Clive Palmer, Ray Hopper and Carl Judge
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When Clive Palmer invoked the ghosts of the United Australia Party at a media conference on Thursday afternoon, it is not clear that he knew the ghost he was invoking.

The short-lived United Australia Party was formed in 1931 when two upset Labor MPs, treasurer Joseph Lyons and acting prime minister James Fenton, left to form a new political party.

In short, the two disgruntled former Labor MPs formed the United Australia Party with the conservatives and won the 1931 federal election.

Clive Palmer

Clive Palmer Photo: Glenn Hunt

The UAP was the party that the Liberals’ idol, Sir Robert Menzies, led as prime minister from 1939, stepping out of the UAP’s shadow in 1945 to form the Liberal Party of Australia.

Clive Palmer told reporters – semi-seriously – that it was more than a 50 per cent chance that he will launch his own version of the United Australia Party next week.

He told reporters on Thursday his nephew owns the trademark to the name.

Clive Palmer may be thinking that two disgruntled LNP members who on Thursday dramatically quit the LNP – Carl Judge and Alex Douglas – may choose to join his new party.

Is he thinking that 2013 may revisit 1931?

Mr Palmer quit the LNP last week, after being suspended and then reinstated.

On Thursday there were veiled murmurings from Mr Palmer that five other LNP MPs might be nervous – but then he covered that with mumblings that he may have double counted.

Queensland politics and public policy expert Dr Scott Prasser believes Clive Palmer has not thought so carefully about the name United Australia Party.

“The UAP was an attempt to regroup the non-Labor forces, but its big problem was that it was too close to business,” Dr Prasser said.

“That was its big problem. It had business councils that were running it. That was its big hassle. It did not have a very strong branch structure,” Dr Prasser said.

Dr Prasser believes Clive Palmer was thinking colourfully – not specifically – when he mentioned revitalising the United Australia Party.

“He picked the name because it sounds good, the United Australia Party,” he said.

“I can understand why Clive would pick on that name … because it has that appeal.”

Scott Prasser said Queensland has seen in more recent years the formation of other state-based conservative parties – Katter’s Australian Party, Aidan McLindon’s the Queensland Party and One Nation Queensland, which won 11 state seats at the 1998 state election but ultimately dissolved into the City Country Alliance in 1999.

But he said these parties all championed “ultra-nationalism”, which ultimately fades.

Dr Prasser said that this week in state parliament the government reeked of inexperience.

According to Dr Prasser there are 10 lessons the LNP should learn over Christmas.

1: “You have a lot of new people in politics, who are surprised they became members of parliament.”

2: “Political parties have been in decline for years. Fewer people join political parties. So you have a lot of people who don’t know what a Liberal Party – for example – really stands for.”

3: “You have a lot of backbenchers and one-third of those backbenchers are going to lose their seats at the next election. They are ‘oncers’, but they need to be managed.”

4: “You have a ‘top-down’ leader, whose military background is one where he is used to people following orders.”

5: “You have a very inexperienced government. Very few people are actually experienced in running the government, not withstanding Campbell’s experience in running Brisbane.”

6: “They stuffed up the public service and caused immense dislocation. I was on some forums with them and my advice to them was to trim it down – you could do that easily – without having to put it into deep-freeze. But the whole place came to a complete standstill.”

7: “Overlaying that is the dynamics between the Liberal Party component and the National Party component and the organisational wing and the parliamentary wings.”

“The National Party rump would always emerge somewhere from the amalgamation (LNP) – that’s Katter’s Australia Party.

“That has emerged. And Katter’s Australia Party will never be a major force in Queensland, because Queensland is different now. It is highly urbanised. Seventy per cent of the economy is in south-east Queensland, and that is where most people live. And those people do not connect with Katter’s Australia Party.”

8: “You have egos and personalities all over the place. And those egos and personalities are walking all over the place, trying to score points from people.”

9: “And then you have Campbell Newman just misjudging how to manage things. Being in opposition is different to being in government. You have to learn to govern.”

10: Learn from this week’s three mistakes.

“The Ray Hopper issue should have been managed better – discuss things and take him out to dinner.”

“The pledge issue – that is unprecedented in non-Labor politics.”

“The public service is now increasingly politicised. Once upon a time, experienced public service heads would say that’s a bad idea. Nowadays, you have just no restraint from the public service.”

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