Where in the World is Brendan Nelson?


In Southport on the Gold Coast there’s not a stir in the air except a breeze in the wake of the occasional jogger running alongside Broadwater. The leader of the Opposition began his "listening tour" here on Monday, but barely made a ripple in the everyday business of the region.

Up the road, Brisbanites in a café discuss who the man might really be.
"Didn’t he used to be a radical?"
"Maybe for five minutes in his 20s."
"But he has that earring."
"Yeah, but he doesn’t wear it anymore, have you noticed?"
"Oh … No, I didn’t notice."

As I write, I’m waiting for Nelson to appear at the service station on the road to Mt Isa. The place is a new development, one of those soulless, identical petrol dispensers staffed by pockmarked 15-year-olds, the kind of roadhouse truck drivers complain about. There’s no sign of him.

Perhaps it isn’t the right "servo". There’s been suggestions that Nelson is visiting seats important to his caucus, that he might be trying to shore up his precarious leadership with this tour, with House of Reps leader Anthony Albanese claiming: "This tour is more about the internal mechanisms of the Liberal Party."

If there’s anything resembling a frisson in Liberal politics up here, it’s the seemingly annual discussion as to whether the Liberals and Nationals should merge. This week, Queensland’s Liberals decided to delay the merger until it can be considered at a Federal level, with new Liberal Party State President Gary Spence admitting that the issue didn’t raise too much heated debate this time around.

"My view is that this needs to be federally driven, and that’s the unanimous view of the State Council today," he told Brisbane’s Courier-Mail on Sunday.

Nelson told Queenslanders he was more concerned about petrol and mortgages.

"The average Queenslander wants their National and Liberal Party leaders focussed on the concerns of everyday Queenslanders, and less focussed on our own issues," he said.

He then pulled out a medical party trick by listening to a pregnant woman’s belly and guessing the age of the foetus correctly at 30 weeks.

The Liberal leader criticised Rudd for meeting "lots of celebrities" on his world tour, but the average Queenslander doesn’t seem to have noticed Nelson’s appearance. A celebrity or two might do him good.

‘Nowhere Man’ continues to appear in unannounced shopping centres and roadhouses somewhere in the state, and I’m still waiting for him to show up. I’m sure he could guess the vintage of a few singleted beer bellies around here.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.