Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Harper has a mini-me in the land down under

  • Print

BRISBANE -- Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a mini-me in Australia.

In the northern state of Queensland there's a political party modelled on the highly successful Conservative Party of Canada. Heading it is Premier Campbell Newman, whose age, balding forehead and short stature rule out any suggestions he sprang from Harper's loins.

But in political terms there's no doubt he's Harper's progeny. Like Harper, Newman heads a successful melting pots of centre-right political parties straddling the cosmopolitan-country divide, uniting the rustics with the refined.

Unfortunately for Newman, his melting pot boiled over last weekend.

First the backstory. The Liberal National Party, which rules the northern state of Queensland, swept into power last March in a spectacular victory, which left the state dumbfounded.

The LNP didn't win every seat, but with 78 of the 89 seats in the legislative assembly, the Labor Opposition didn't have sufficient numbers to muster a football team.

The LNP was formed in 2008 by uniting two centre-right parties much in the manner of the 2003 merger of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party.

The first party leader, Lawrence Springborg, a likeable Queensland farmer who has spent most of his adult life in politics, actually visited Canada to see how Harper managed to merge the interests of rural Western Canada with the political preoccupations of the urban centres.

Like a micro version of the Conservative Party of Canada, the LNP was born with much fanfare and quickly developed teething problems. It failed in its first attempt to secure power in 2008 but still scored an impressive swing of eight seats.

With former Brisbane mayor Campbell Newman taking charge in early 2011, the party stormed the barricades in the 2012 election, to much cheering and applause amid right-leaning pundits who predicted the left would take a generation to recover in Queensland.

This week, an age-old problem the LNP was designed to smother woke up and reared its ugly head -- regions versus cities.

A lanky cattleman, Ray Hopper, who runs a small farm west of the capital of Brisbane, angrily walked out of his wildly successful party, joining forces with a fledgling party with just three members representing the interests of the bush.

Hopper had had "a gutful'' of a city-centric LNP ignoring the concerns of the regions, including a decade-old problem in the dairy industry -- miners taking over good agricultural land -- and a world-view excluding the preoccupations of those living, geographically and spiritually, millions of light years from the inner city.

The defection means barely a blip in terms of the LNP's fat electoral margin but it does highlight an almost intractable problem.

The LNP has developed into a sophisticated political machine but it's tertiary educated and urbane leadership team is still going to have to cater to those country cousins living back on the farm.

This week, Premier Newman had to reassure the most decentralized state in the nation that the regions were not being forgotten in a party with its historical roots deep in the bush.

While the alliance between region and city appears (from an outsider's viewpoint at least) to work well in Canada, in Queensland it was always going to be like herding blowflies. A deep cultural divide runs across the state with the regional population deeply conscious of its historic financial, political and even social power, anchored in an age when wool, sugar and beef were the economic bedrock.

With the rise of the information age, the power dynamics have shifted rapidly but the cries of the regions for attention will still be shrill for at least another generation, and Harper's mini-me will have to listen to them.

Michael Madigan is the Free Press correspondent in Australia. He writes mostly about politics for the Brisbane-based Courier Mail.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 30, 2012 A12

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

O'Shea says the team is going to stick to the plan after first loss

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Someone or thing is taking advantage of the inactivity at Kapyong Barracks,hundreds of Canada Geese-See Joe Bryksa’s goose a day for 30 days challenge- Day 15- May 22, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Geese fight as a male defends his nesting site at the duck pond at St Vital Park Thursday morning- See Bryksa’s Goose a Day Photo- Day 08- May 10, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What's your take on a report that shows violent crime is decreasing in Winnipeg?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google