In 2013, with 4.3 per cent of the primary vote, the Nationals won 9 seats in the House of Representatives. The Greens, with 8.6 per cent of the primary vote, won one.
But even with this disproportionate representation, the National Party seem unwilling or unable to act in the best interests of their constituents.
We have seen mining approvals that endanger prime farm land and water resources. We have seen the relationship with Indonesia deteriorate so far that they have slashed their cattle imports. We have seen free trade agreements which, on closer inspection, deliver far less than promised, with whole industries ignored, long phase out periods for tariffs, and caps on tariff free exports based on 2013 levels.
Some Liberals are calling for a review of the evidence “underpinning the man-made global warming theory” and an investigation of “the reasons for the failure of computer models, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and prominent individuals to predict, amongst other things, the pause in global warming this century”. They also argue that, in light of the uncertainty around this issue, Australia should not sign any binding agreement at the United Nations climate change conference in Paris, to be held later this year.
At the same time, a group of farmers who are “on the front line of rising temperatures and more extreme weather”, are calling for Australia to adopt post-2020 targets that will cut carbon emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2025, and at least 60 per cent by 2030 over 2000 pollution levels, in line with recommendations of the scientific community. Other farming groups are calling for an expansion of renewable energy which they see as a productive use for vacant land.
Regional Australia is also suffering from burgeoning unemployment, high suicide rates, and a lack of access to health and education facilities.
So what are the National Party doing to help?
A prime example of their lack of efficacy, and in fact perfidy, was given by Barnaby Joyce and recounted in Tony Windsor’s book:
I raised the issue of the Armidale Hospital with Joyce, and whether he was on top of it. A twenty-first century hospital for a catchment of about 80,000 people was needed and the long term success of the medical school would depend on it. And then, without any shame, he said it.
“You know Tony, until you had decided not to run, I had the money for the Armidale hospital, as well as the funding for the Legume to Woodenbong Road.”
I was outraged. I sat there thinking this bloke is an idiot to tell me this. This is a classic example of why the Nats are a waste of space. Here they are back in business but even before they are elected the first thing they do is take the electorate for granted by withdrawing funding for vital projects because they think they have the seat in the bag. He said the decision had come from Abbott’s office. Everyone, other than four people, had thought I would contest the 2013 election. Barnaby’s leadership ambitions meant he wanted a lower house seat so he had decided on New England. And here was Barnaby, sitting there blithely telling me the consequences of that decision for the people of New England, as if in some way it was my fault for not standing.
“When you were still the member and running” he said, “Abbott’s office said we could have a range of things, including $50 million for the hospital. But when you didn’t run they withdrew the money for the hospital and the road.”
Should Mr Windsor choose to run again, as has been suggested, I hope all New England voters compare what he achieved for his electorate to what Barnaby has delivered.
To all National voters, I understand it is hard to change the habits of generations, but your interests are not being considered by the office of the Prime Minister. It is in the best interest of your children for you to question a lifelong devotion to a party who has lost its identity.
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