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Queensland: former One Nation member discusses the possibility of more One Nation members returning to the National Party.



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PETER THOMPSON: They take no prisoners in Queensland politics, as you may have noticed. Yes, One Nation’s troubles with its grassroots membership could translate into a bonanza for the National Party. Last August, there were some highly publicised defections to the Nats from One Nation’s Petrie Branch in Brisbane - walkouts fuelled by discontent with One Nation’s lack of democratic process. Well, last week, three state-elected One Nation MPs quit their party for the same reasons, preferring to sit as Independents in the Queensland parliament.

 

Now, talk of these defectors being drafted to the National Party has unleashed tension between the coalition partners in the north, with the Liberal Party saying it’s unacceptable for the Nats to sign up these people. The Nationals are resisting the pressure and we’re joined now by Brendan Bogle, the former president of One Nation’s Petrie Branch. Since last August, he’s been a staunch supporter of the National Party and he’s going to tell Fran Kelly why.

 

FRAN KELLY: Brendan Bogle, is the National Party a comfortable place to be for former One Nation members?

 

BRENDAN BOGLE: Well, it is Fran, and the reason why is that the philosophies of the National Party in years gone by were the philosophies that Pauline Hanson picked up and ran with. Unfortunately, the National Party a few years ago, like other parties in this country, lost sight, I suppose, of what their main goal was, and that’s why Pauline Hanson was such a good choice to probably want to go and support. Unfortunately, that hasn’t turned out that way now and the National Party is, for me, the best place I’d want to be.

 

FRAN KELLY: Is the National Party keen to sign up some of the One Nation MPs up there in Queensland who have quit their party in recent days?

 

BRENDAN BOGLE: I heard Don McDonald yesterday afternoon speaking on this issue as well as David Russell. I think that these things have to have merit, and if these MPs are prepared to come on board and take on the National Party ideals and philosophies, then I think that we will see the MPs like myself - who was just a member - come from One Nation and be well accommodated in the National Party.

 

FRAN KELLY: As a former member of One Nation and now a National Party member, are you aware of any talks or approaches being made between the National Party and these MPs?

 

BRENDAN BOGLE: I think the talks at this stage are fairly low key. It really is up to the One Nation MPs to, I suppose, denounce their evil ways - as I would put it - and I suppose it depends on whether the grassroots membership of the National Party are prepared to accept it. This is a democratic party, more democratic than the One Nation party, and that’s why I find it so appealing.

 

FRAN KELLY: We’ll get to the grassroots membership accepting in a minute, but yesterday we spoke to Shaun Nelson who is the 25-year-old One Nation MP and now former One Nation MP. Would he make a good National Party member of parliament?

BRENDAN BOGLE: I think Shaun could, but Shaun has to tame down his views that, quite frankly, I find quite extreme. But Shaun is not alone because I used to think that way, too, and I think that once the scales are taken off your eyes, you can see the world differently, so I think that he’d have an opportunity there.

 

FRAN KELLY: When you say ‘change your ideas’, ‘have the scales taken off your eyes’, ‘denounce the evil ways’, what are you talking about?

 

BRENDAN BOGLE: Well, Fran, the One Nation concept was idealistic and I can see that now. I suppose anger probably clouded my judgment when I was with One Nation when I left the National Party previously, but you know, when you look back and you see the overall picture, it simply is that. It’s idealistic; it’s a dream; and it’s not an achievable one. Quite frankly, I’m ashamed to think that I was ever a part of that way of thinking. It just doesn’t sit with me as being fairly logical at all.

 

FRAN KELLY: Brendan, the Liberal Party in Queensland is now telling the Nats that they shouldn’t draft these One Nation MPs. Can you understand their concerns?

 

BRENDAN BOGLE: I can. I can understand the Liberal Party’s concerns but I think the Liberal Party has to also understand that a lot of One Nation membership came from the National Party. The National Party is a separate identity to the Liberal Party. They’re both conservative but they do come from slightly different directions, and I think the Liberal Party needs to understand the views of Queenslanders. Queensland is, geometrically speaking or geographically speaking, different to every other state in Australia, and the Queensland Nationals have to understand that the times are changing and ….

 

FRAN KELLY: You say a lot of One Nation’s membership base came from the Nationals originally. What about what’s happening now? Have many One Nation members come back to the National Party in the last six to 12 months?

 

BRENDAN BOGLE: Yes, they have, and in fact the figures that I have from a fairly reliable source show the One Nation party’s membership has been halved. To take an example, the branch that I was the president of - which is Petrie - had 209 members in August of last year, and now I am told they’re down to 89 and falling.

 

FRAN KELLY: And have many of them come across to the National Party?

 

BRENDAN BOGLE: They have. In fact, the secretary of the branch who at one time was fairly outspoken against me, especially in August last year, has resigned from One Nation and is seeking to join the National Party, and I think that’s - well, to put it quite clearly, the tide is changing.

 

FRAN KELLY: Brendan Bogle, thanks very much.

 

BRENDAN BOGLE: Thank you.

 

PETER THOMPSON: And Brendan is the former president of One Nation’s Petrie Branch in Queensland. He is now an enthusiast for the National Party.