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The Nationals are a waste of space

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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  1. trishcorry

    Do the 9 seats include the LNP in QLD? There are a number of seats in QLD under LNP who sit under the Nationals. Ours won by 2000 odd votes and does nothing.

  2. kathysutherland2013

    Barnaby has only raised a token objection to the proposed Shenhua mine in prime agricultural land. I’d love Tony Windsor to run!

  3. Kaye Lee

    No Trish, I didn’t include the LNP (8.9% and 22 seats) or the CLP (0.3% and 1 seat). The 9 is just the Nationals.

    The LNP got 1,152,217 votes and 22 seats. The Greens got 1,116,918 votes and one seat. Tell me how that’s fair.

  4. Kaye Lee

    If we had proportional representation based on first preference votes we would have 68 Coalition seats instead of 90.

  5. Rosemary (@RosemaryJ36)

    Clearly there is a case for proportional representation.

  6. corvus boreus

    Sounds a whole lot better than disproportionate misrepresentation. 😉

  7. JohnB

    Hello Kaye @ 02:13pm,
    You are simplistically comparing vote per seat figures without taking into account the number of seats across which those votes were cast.
    It produces a false dichotomy – an impression that the Greens are somehow disadvantaged by the electoral system.
    The high ‘seat yield’ per votes received achieved by the Nats is as a result of them
    a) generally only standing candidates in winnable seats, and
    b) the Libs by agreement, not running a candidate against them.
    A very efficient way to run a coalition in order to maximise benefits from resources invested.

    The low ‘seat yield’ per votes received achieved by the Nats is as a result of Greens running candidates in almost all seats, regardless of the likelihood of them winning those seats.

  8. trishcorry

    That Nats think Capricornia is a National Strong hold now there is a member for Capricornia who is a Nat. Then they moved Senator Matt Canavan into town. They primp and pomp around like they own the place. Photo Op here, photo op there, but could they help with funding after cyclone? No? Just blamed Labor? Do they do anything about jobs? No. Just blame Labor? Have we had any important infrastructure projects? No. Nats support no FIFO, Tony Abbott says No. I didn’t post this one on AIMN, but it this is what what happens when Nats have a seat.

    Landry’s “Gunna-Do” Rhetoric Harms Capricornia

  9. JohnB

    @ 02:55pm..oops…. I meant to write “The low ‘seat yield’ per votes received achieved by the Greens is as a result ..” – not Nats.

  10. Kaye Lee


    I agree it is a simplistic comparison of little actual value without looking at individual seats, the population they serve, and how many candidates ran. That would be a post within itself. The figures were merely to highlight the disproportionate nature of representation.

  11. Terry2

    A lot of National voters saw what happened the day that Barnaby’s Agricultural White Paper came out : he was supposed to appear on Q&A on the Monday night having told Barrie Cassidy on the Sunday, on Insiders that he would. He then evidently got a phone call telling him that he was not permitted to appear, a muzzle placed on him by Tony Abbott.

    This is a National Party MP, elected to represent his constituency who, instead of telling Abbott to “piss off I’m not in your party” buckles under and allows other people on Q&A to answer questions about his White Paper and his portfolio.

    A lot of people noticed this and were dismayed : they won’t forget it.

  12. Kaye Lee

    Good article about Capricornia Trish. Windsor and Oakeshott were forced to leave the Nats because they could not be Liberal lapdogs which is what Landy sounds like. That or the PM’s office isn’t listening.

  13. Harquebus

    Not just the Nats. Labor and the Coalition are also voids when it comes to integrity.

    If we did not have the large number of voters who always vote the same regardless of policy, would we still need proportional representation? If we had party politicians who represented their constituents instead of their party, would we still need it then?

    On that pause in global warming.
    “The term “ global warming hiatus” is a bit of a misnomer. It refers to a period of slower surface warming in the wake of the 1997-98 super El Niño compared to the previous decades.”

  14. Rafe Falkiner

    The problem here is getting this brilliant , simple message to the people who vote National… None of who would read anything from AIM

  15. M-R

    Oh, Tony Windsor … 1 of 2 pollies whose hands I’d shake.

  16. John Kelly

    That they withdrew the funds on learning that Windsor would not run, does not surprise me. That he actually admitted it, convinces me Barnaby is an idiot.

  17. JeffJL

    @JohnB. Very accurate. I love the way that Kaye Lee does the research into her articles and provides accurate and relevant facts. Unfortunately this article comparing Nat votes to Green votes rates a fail to me. Why? For the reasons JohnB articulates.

    Yes the Nationals are a waste of space and reasons are given in the article. Their level of votes across Australia is not one of the reasons. This voting comparison is worthy of inclusion in The Australian or on Alan Jones’s radio show.

    Sorry Kaye. A spade is a spade.

  18. Kaye Lee

    I do understand your objections and they are valid. Personally I still find it interesting that twice as many Australians gave their first preference to a Greens candidate as to a National candidate. I cannot easily find stats of how many seats fielded a Greens candidate and how many had a Nats candidate but no doubt there were many seats where the Nats did not stand (all of Queensland and the NT for starters as well as many urban electorates). The points you make are correct when accounting for seats won and high yield.

    I guess my thinking is that nationwide, there are almost as many Australians who, on first preferences, preferred the Greens as there were Queenslanders who preferred the LNP. Because the Greens vote is spread, there is a sizable number of the population whose wishes are not being represented, while a similar number of people have 22 LNP votes.

  19. stephentardrew

    I agree completely Kaye.

    John I take no convincing.

  20. Steeleye

    Thank you JohnB for pointing out that which is generally omitted in comparing Nats versus Greens and votes versus seats. This will always be an outcome of single-member electorates and a party which is regionally-based as opposed to one that is national in character.

    Actually, Kaye, I think that the problem with “a sizable number of the population whose wishes are not being represented” goes well beyond just the question of where votes come from (eg Nats versus Greens). I think that possibly greater problems in people being unrepresented are, firstly, the adversarial nature of two-party politics which means that each side must automatically label anything coming from the other side as idiocy and, secondly, the near iron grip of the executives in each major party that causes all MPs to meekly fall into line to preserve their places at the trough. The first of these problems means that nearly 50% of the population is automatically disenfranchised on any issue which does not have cross-party support. The second problem means that for an issue such as SSM, the wishes of a majority of voters are often not represented at all.

    Vote 1, Benevolent Dictator (as long as I find his/her views acceptable).

  21. Andreas Bimba

    The Hare-Clark voting system as used for the Tasmanian lower house of parliament and for ACT elections where 5 to 7 (7 is best) local members are elected per each of the larger local seats avoids the unrepresentative nature of our current lower house voting system which favours a two party (or coalition) system and eventually destroys smaller parties with widely dispersed voter base such as the Australian Democrats.

    The Senate and most state upper houses of parliament have proportional voting so minor parties such as the Greens are able to be fairly represented.

    Tasmania originally had 7 local members per lower house seat but this was changed by the Liberal and Labor parties to 5 for the 1998 and subsequent elections in an attempt to squeeze out the Greens but they were unsuccessful as by this stage the Greens were too popular.

    A quote from the first link below:

    Philosopher John Stuart Mill also supported the system, first devised by British political scientist Thomas Hare. Mill believed that proportional parliamentary reform would stop the defect that enabled:

    …the strongest party to exclude all weaker parties from making their opinions heard in the assembly of the nation.



  22. BJWard

    No matter what your opinions about Nats seats and Greens seats, and the proportional voting system, the point of this article still holds – the Nats are a waste of space. Everyone says they can’t understand why the Nats keep winning seats, especially when the win represents nett disadvantage for the electorate. I reckon it’s the old rusted-on voter thing; the “my father, mother, my grandparents and their parents before him voted (here insert your party of choice). If it was good enough for them, it’s good enough for me” – whether or not the vote is in fact good enough for anyone. It’s probably the reason why, in days where the LNP lurches from stupidity to craziness, and the government’s actions attract almost universal derision, there’s still a solid 40% of all voters prepared to give the LNP their first preference vote.

  23. diannaart

    Excellent work, Kaye

    Of special interest:

    “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.”

    Nothing like opening one’s mouth and proving one is a complete fool – good one Barnaby. Once again I appear to be stalking John Kelly – I’m not, I swear.

    Points made regarding proportional voting and representation are important and clearly require further discussion and research.

    Greens could do worse than focus on the country gentry. Richard Di Natale offers a presentable image (straight white male, wears suit) which should not ‘frighten the horses’ – armed with these attributes he could make some progress with the landed folk who, in many cases (not all – some are too rich to bother with environmental concerns) continue to vote against their best interests – as Kaye’s article highlights.

  24. Möbius Ecko

    …there’s still a solid 40% of all voters prepared to give the LNP their first preference vote.

    And a solid 40% that give Labor their first preference. In both cases those 80% are mostly taken for granted, which is the stupidity of being a rusted on core supporter, you gain little to nothing out of it from your party for that concrete support.

    I remember when I lived in Peter Reith’s electorate the constituents were quite openly vociferous against him as a local member. He really was terrible. He spent so little time in the electorate that his office was closed for periods and was often vandalised in non-political graffiti. Yet at every election this safe Liberal seat would return him with a substantial majority, though towards the end that majority did start to decline.

  25. Kaye Lee


    At 1am after several glasses of champagne I have often thought I should be benevolent dictator provided I could do it from home – I don’t own any Armani suits.

  26. Anomander

    But we have a populace who, unless personally affected by a policy or an issue, falls back into traditional voting patterns because the mainstream media only ever portrays our politics as a duopoly. You can only vote for one side or the other, because they are told voting for a minor party is a ‘wasted vote’.

    That phrase (wasted vote) alone makes me want to punch people, almost as much as the cretins who donkey vote. FFS – you have one chance every 3-4 years to make your voice heard and the best you can do is scribble obscenities on the ballot paper.

    At the 2013 election over 800,000 votes were informal, that’s 5.9% of votes that simply didn’t count and all those votes could have made an enormous difference to the outcome.

    People need to recognise that it doesn’t take many votes to affect a change. I live in Bennelong and the day we voted a sitting Prime Minister – John Howard out of office was one of the happiest days of my life.

  27. Steeleye

    Champagne at 1am, Kaye? Some of us definitely do it tough! You’re not first in line for the Benevolent Dictator gig, I’m afraid. My Esteemed Better Half put her hand up for the role about 30 years ago.

    You’re a lucky person, Anomander. I would have loved the opportunity to help give Little Johnny the heave-ho. Perhaps I should consider a move to Warringah? Vote early and vote often, I say.


  28. Marg1

    Well said Kaye – Nats are just there to make up the numbers for LNP, they are useless otherwise.

  29. Möbius Ecko

    The Nationals only stay with the Liberals against what’s best for the constituents and their own party’s long term well being because of personal greed and power. Increasingly the Liberals are fielding candidates against the Nationals and many Liberals are disgruntled at the senior portfolios the Nationals get and they miss out on. Except for Queensland this L-NP disunity is worse at the State level. Kennett all destroyed the Nationals (and rural Victoria).

    Against merit and their proportion of garnered votes the Nationals manage to automatically get a Deputy PM and Deputy Premiers along with senior portfolios and government positions. It is for this reason and the pay and conditions it brings that the Nationals stick with the Liberals and often screw their constituents in doing so.

  30. jimhaz

    [That phrase (wasted vote) alone makes me want to punch people, almost as much as the cretins who donkey vote. FFS – you have one chance every 3-4 years to make your voice heard and the best you can do is scribble obscenities on the ballot paper.

    At the 2013 election over 800,000 votes were informal, that’s 5.9% of votes that simply didn’t count and all those votes could have made an enormous difference to the outcome.]

    I see it differently. I see it as the best way not to offer support to either party. Informal votes mean the parties don’t get the election funding of $2.60 per vote. I’d like to see the informal vote triple as it seems the only way to send a message. It depends on what Greens and independents an electorate has – mostly punters know so very little about them.

  31. Kaye Lee

    If the truth be told, the last time I was up at 1am was to do a wee. But I remember the days when I didn’t nod off in front of the tv or reading my book at 8pm. I defer to your better half – when I wake up I invariably feel differently 😉

    At the risk of sounding sexist, I do think a group of women who have successfully juggled work and family commitments and finances, whilst being carer for elderly parents or disabled partners, and getting their children to activities and making sure homework is done, who then volunteer for canteen duty and reading group and making the costumes for the school play, whilst keeping the house clean and doing the shopping and cooking, and looking pretty while they do it, would find government a breeze. Fancy having staff to do everything and never having to pay for anything. You are told what to say, when and to whom so you don’t have to think. You don’t even have to turn up if you don’t feel like it. (Has anyone seen Clive?)

  32. Anomander

    Clive’s little empire seems to have dissolved, so he seems to have lost interest in playing the game.

  33. corvus boreus

    Just to clarify, a donkey vote is not an informal vote.
    A donkey vote is a 1 at the top, down through the numbers to the bottom.
    A donkey vote counts as a valid vote.

  34. Kaye Lee

    The donkey vote combined with a degree of illiteracy is why we are saddled with smokin’ David Leyjonhelm for six years.

  35. Kaye Lee

    I wonder if the Nationals have ever thought about how much power they would have if they were NOT part of the Coalition.

    Perhaps someone can enlighten me about how many of the 22 LNP MPs identify as Nationals (George Christensen is one I know) – I will assume one third, say 7, for the sake of the exercise. If the CLP member also identifies as Country Party, that gives the Nats 17 seats, Liberal 73 (72 votes with the speaker knocked out), Labor 55, Greens, PUP and Katter one each, and two Independents.

    The Liberal Party could get nothing passed without agreement with someone else. They need 75 votes without counting Bronnie so even with Katter and Palmer they wouldn’t have the numbers – they would need Wilkie or McGowan if the Nats said no (assuming Labor and the Greens vote together which is a huge assumption nowadays). That puts the Nats in a very strong position. Rather than being subservient and ignored, they would have the power to dictate. But do they have the ticker to do it or even the sense to see the potential?

  36. Terry2


    It has been suggested that Truss will retire before the next election and if he does, the Leadership and the position of Deputy Prime Minister will go to Barnaby Joyce – that could spell the demise of the Nationals as well as creating a major problem for the Libs.

  37. JeffJL

    Grabbing the candidate numbers for you.

    The Nationals fielded 19 candidates; The Greens fielded 85. (figures not including Queensland, yes I forgot that the merger took place in the NT as well.)

    The Greens fielded more than four times as many candidates as The Nationals so it is not surprising that they got more than twice the number of first preferences as The Nationals.

    This does not mean that I do not agree with your statement that ‘The Nats are a waste of space’.

  38. Kaye Lee

    Thanks Jeff. That certainly explains the voting numbers. Does anyone know how many of the 22 Queensland LNPs would identify as Nats?

  39. townsvilleblog

    Every election in recent history the Nats have diminished their reputation in the federal parliament, this is as it should be their existence is based on a lie anyway.

  40. Rais

    Kaye Lee, in a way all the Queensland LNP members are Nats because although the LNP is affiliated federally principally with the Libs, the LNP was formed by an amalgamation of the numerically superior membership of the Qld Nats with the Qld Libs. Thus the amalgamation was actually a Nats takeover of the Libs. Does that clarify at all the manner of government of Campbell Newman?

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