Can the coalition survive life in opposition?

Had Franklin been encouraged by his own party to run for the role, the agreement binding the coalition would have been in shambles. The senior Liberals made that clear. As long as Franklin acted as a lonely, ambitious ranger, the partnership remained intact. However, after being portrayed as a traitor, Franklin fought back.

The new President of the Legislative Chamber, Ben Franklin, cut a lonely figure after being accused of

The new President of the Legislative Chamber, Ben Franklin, cut a lonely figure after being accused of “treason” by his fellow coalition partners.Credit: Kate Geraghty

Toole hadn’t been honest. In fact, Franklin had informed his then-leader that he intended to nominate for the top role. That was enough to end Toole’s lead. However, Toole was not honest with his liberal colleagues when he negotiated the important coalition agreement.

The Liberals were seething. While new Nationals chairman Dugald Saunders was quickly installed and Liberal leader Mark Speakman insisted that unity had been restored, cracks were simply covered over. Tensions between the two parties have escalated over time, hitting new lows under bombastic former leader John Barilaro. He was the first to propose a divorce.

Barilaro threatened to blow up the coalition over little-known planning legislation to protect koalas. He would take all his MPs to court if the Liberals did not agree to his demands for legislative changes. Then Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian stood firm and Barilaro gave up his ultimatum.


He had a long track record of making threats. After winning the 2019 election, Barilaro set the tone for negotiations with the Liberals, warning he would not allow regions to suffer to appease “moderate city dwellers”. In yet another mockery of his liberal peers, Barilaro thundered that he was willing to relinquish the title of deputy prime minister because it suggested he was “subservient” to them.

Despite the bitterness and sometimes resentment, the coalition survived because there was no other option. Interdependence was the only way for the Conservatives to form a government. However, for the sake of the children, they no longer have to stay together.

The forced marriage served its purpose for both sides and will continue to do so in the future, but the partnership has long since broken up. It would be naïve to think that the Liberals and Nationalists, while finding their bearings in the new world of opposition, would not now choose to go their separate ways.

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Justin Scaccy

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