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Liberals and Nationals merge -

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KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: After a tempestuous engagement the Liberal and National Parties in
Queensland have tied the political knot.

They Party's voted overwhelmingly at the weekend to merge, creating the Liberal National Party, or
LNP.

Not everyone was keen for the marriage to go ahead, with Queensland Liberal Party and former
federal cabinet minister Mal Brough almost succeeding in having it postponed. He is now out in the
political cold.

It's a victory for the LNP's leader elect, Lawrence Springborg, who is tipping that other States,
will follow, and that a national merger is possible before the next election.

But on past history you wouldn't want to hold your breath.

Mark Willacy reports from Brisbane.

MARK WILLACY, REPORTER: For more than 60 years the Queensland Nationals and Liberals have played in
separate teams under different captains.

Today is no different; out on a sodden Brisbane football field the two conservative parties are
going head to head in what's being billed as their last rugby grudge match.

And just like in the party room, out on the paddock they occasionally play dirty.

MIKE HORAN, QLD NATIONAL MP: It's part of the team building we've got to do once we become
amalgamated to make sure we are united as one.

MARK WILLACY: But out in the mud and the blood of conservative politics in Queensland true love
never runs smooth. And after months of negotiations, a merger of the Liberals and Nationals was
seemingly a done deal.

Then at the last minute, a handful of senior Liberals led by the Party's Queensland President Mal
Brough complained the amalgamation was more of a Nationals takeover than a marriage of equal
partners.

Mr Brough wanted Liberal, preferably himself, to be handed the presidency of the new party.

MAL BROUGH, QLD LIBERAL PRESIDENT: 48 hours from having to make key decisions about the non-Labor
side of politics in this state myself and the federal President still have not received any
confirmation to any of the proposals regarding the key presidential issue.

MARK WILLACY: So Mr Brough and Federal Liberal President Alan Stockdale engineered a postponement
of the merger vote, a move which left many Liberals seething.

VOX POP: 86 per cent of members vote end favour of a merger and Mal Brough, the greatest
contribution he could make to the Liberal party is to resign immediately. It's an absolute
disgrace.

VOX POP 2: This has cut the heart out of the Liberal democracy.

VOX POP 3: There'll be a lot of people leaving the Liberal Party, trust me.

MARK WILLACY: Mal Brough's move to delay the merger was successfully challenged court and the
convention went ahead.

Anger turning into ecstasy as members of both parties voted overwhelmingly to form the Liberal
National Party.

LAWRENCE SPRINGBORG, LNP LEADER-ELECT: I stand before you today as leader elect of the LNP in
Queensland.

Even those people that don't support our side of politics in Queensland and at this stage it's the
majority; they're saying this is got to give us something to look at, and also the government
honest.

MARK WILLACY: The merger of the two conservative parties is a sweet victory for Lawrence
Springborg. But for another prominent Queenslander it's a very public humiliation.

Mal Brough was being touted as a future leader of the conservatives in Queensland. But after his
attempt to derail the weekend's merger convention many on his own side of politics are questioning
his judgement.

Mr Brough accuses his National Party counterparts of hanging him out to dry.

MAL BROUGH: It's been incredibly embarrassing period. It's incredibly difficult period when the
Federal President of the Liberal Party is unable to speak to the National Party's state President
because he refuses to talk to him.

It's not really a great start to a marriage.

REPORTER: Will you join the LNP?

MAL BROUGH: No, I will not be joining the LNP.

MARK WILLACY: And neither would Mr Brough be joining the merger celebrations.

LAWRENCE SPRINGBORG: Where's Mal?

MARK WILLACY: Well for now he is in the political wilderness.

IAN KORTLANG, FORMER LIBERAL STRATEGIST: He overplayed his hand here, and the more you talk to
people it was all about Mal. And you know that never works in politics.

LAWRENCE SPRINGBORG: Fellow members of the LNP...

MARK WILLACY: With the wedding over and the honeymoon beginning in Queensland, Lawrence Springborg
sees the love spreading over the border.

LAWRENCE SPRINGBORG: I think there is now a wonderful opportunity for this to positively flow on
through the rest of Australia and interstate. Now I think that what we saw in Queensland on the
weekend wasn't missed down south.

And I've got no doubt that will happen, I respect the time frames may be different, but I do
believe it's as essential across the rest of Australia as it was in Queensland.

MARK WILLACY: But the National Party's Federal Leader is playing down the prospect of conservative
mergers working elsewhere.

WARREN TRUSS, FEDERAL NATIONALS LEADER: The issues are different in Queensland than they are
federally. In Queensland there were two parties essentially competing for the same constituency,
that doesn't make good sense.

And certainly the possibilities of there being further mergers in other parts of Australia cannot
be ruled out.

IAN KORTLANG: It isn't going to be a populist move and sweep across the State. Last time we tried
that from Queensland was the Jo for PM campaign it came to a grinding halt.

MARK WILLACY: Opposition leader Brendan Nelson has welcomed the merger, and is on the record of
supporting the principle of a federal amalgamation.

LNP ADVERTISEMENT: We deserve a new Queensland.

MARK WILLACY: Today, the bombardment began with the LNP's opening advertising blitz hitting the
airwaves. The nascent conservative movement may not have to wait that long for its first test.

Although the Premier Anna Bligh is denying she is considering an early election to strangle the new
party at birth.

ANNA BLIGH, QLD PREMIER: I don't see nay grounds for an early election. I was elected along with my
time to deliver some very important projects and new programs for Queenslanders.

I'm going to deliver those projects and programs. And the next election will be held in 2009.

MARK WILLACY: And despite the Opposition needing 20 seats to win the next election, the gap between
the two sides is narrowing. The most recent opinion polls suggest Lawrence Springborg is surging to
within striking distance of Anna Bligh, and the ten year old Labor Government.

LAWRENCE SPRINGBORG: We have to win as many seats as Kevin Rudd won in the last federal election,
and our Parliament as about half the size.

But it's a test that we're looking forward to. From mergers in the Party room back to malls on the
paddock, there should be the last rugby grudge match between the Nationals and Liberals unless
there that is their merger disintegrates or fails miserably at its first electoral test.

But for now it's all about learning to play together and stay together.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Mark Willacy with that report.