QUEENSLAND: by Victor SirlNews Weekly
Horan has the hardest job in Queensland
, April 7, 2001
The Queensland National Party leader Mike Horan may just have the most difficult job in Queensland. Yet, his personal staff are optimistic, which suggests all is not bleak for conservative politics in the Sunshine State. Without positive thinking, Horan's task to reclaim the National Party heartland will be impossible.
Horan has 12 members of parliament and 19 shadow ministries to fill. Making the challenge of providing an effective opposition to the Beattie Labor Government even more daunting is the fact that the parliamentary National Party has only 15 staff, six fewer than the previous State Opposition.
The staffing difficulty is compounded by the fact the National Party has not renewed a coalition with the Liberal Party.
Horan has stated that a coalition would be essential in forming a future conservative State Government, but feels that the National Party needs to stand alone and develop its own policies. This leaves the three Liberals in a worse staffing position than his team faces.
To cope with the problem of creating a well-briefed and prepared Shadow Cabinet he is developing a sensible strategy, indeed the only strategy that can be initiated with any prospect of success. Horan is looking for community-based groups with credible research data to advise his parliamentary team. His efforts have already produced a more friendly and open appearance to his leadership than existed under the electorally rejected Rob Borbidge.
Furthermore, his break with the State Liberal Party has actually helped create a more approachable atmosphere to the Horan leadership. Borbidge was very accommodating to his Liberal Party colleagues, but many National Party MPs felt this was at their expense when National Party policy was often compromised. Such failure to implement and promote policy is one reason some National Party members left and supported Pauline Hanson's One Nation. It was part of their disillusionment with the Party.
To both former party members and supporters who have abandoned the party at the ballot box, Horan has this to say:
"We have been listening to the people, and to the grass roots, that will connect the Party to those people who have chosen on the last two state elections to give their support to others."
In terms of policy direction, it is clear that Horan has listened to the disenchanted and disillusioned when his views on the following are noted. He is a loud opponent of National Competition Policy and would gladly see it scrapped. He wants the Federal Government to exercise greater control over AQIS to ensure another fire blight-type debate is not possible.
Horan also believes that more Australian capital must be invested in our own country, rather than overseas, to develop infrastructure projects. Consistent with the last issue, he is an advocate of state National Party policy to create a State-based rural and small business finance corporation.
In terms of social policy there are two indicators that point to him belonging staunchly in the conservative camp. The first is the fact that unlike Pauline Hanson, he is pro-life and has stated his position publicly. The second is the fact that he does not support Brisbane Lord Mayor Jim Soorley in his calls for heroin injecting rooms, and will not abide a harm minimisation approach to drug reduction.
If Horan continues to promote these issues while developing sound policy positions based on credible research from community based groups, the optimism of his personal staff might prove infectious.
Rob Borbidge proved the Nationals' weakest link and now, not before time, says goodbye to the Queensland electorate, necessitating a by-election in the seat of Surfers Paradise.
It is the new leader's first test to establish if he can reforge the connection that once existed between the National Party and many of its former supporters.