Election diary No. 22: Saturday, 26, March 2022.
1 Known to me for most of my early life as The Country Party, was born on 22 January 1920, when nine members of Parliament, elected in December 1919, decided to support the objectives of the Australian Farmers’ Federal Organisation as an independent political party.
Wikipedia tells us that:
“… the Nationals (or the ‘Nats’) is an Australian political party. Traditionally representing graziers, farmers, (questionable) and regional voters generally, it began as the Australian Country Party (ACP) in 1920 at a federal level. It later adopted the name National Country Party in 1975, before taking its current name in 1982.”
Without it, the conservatives could not rule. They are the junior party in the Coalition; the National Party in the main votes for Liberal party policy. Generally, they do as the Liberals do, and on significant issues like the NBN and climate change vote with the government. Rarely do they represent their constituency. They are pro-mining rather than pro-farming.
In a previous post on this subject I wrote that in my time of following national politics, they have been subservient to the Liberal leader. Now and then, they made a bit of noise, but the old slow-talking fuddy-duddies have, like their coalition partners, stayed in the world of yesteryear listening to Dad and Dave.
Unlike the National Farmers Federation, they are unrepresentative of modern, highly technical, IT savvy farmers who left Dad and Dave to contemplate the past. At the same time, they got on with surviving in a vastly different landscape.
Then came a loud-mouthed, water-stealing buffoon – Barnaby Joyce – who didn’t care who he offended so long as everyone heard what he had to say.
After some time, buffoon Joyce was replaced with the buffoon McCormack, and after a period in which buffoon two accomplished nothing, they returned to buffoon one.
“… Barnaby Joyce. He was re-elected leader following three years of Michael McCormack. The deputy leader of the Nationals, since 4 February 2020, is David Littleproud, representing the Queensland electorate of Maranoa. Littleproud is the first Deputy Leader from the electorate (Maranoa) and the fifth member of the party to become Deputy Leader representing a Queensland electorate.”
But where are they now, and what is their future? To say the organisation is old-fashioned would be an understatement. Seeing a bit of female representation at meetings would be highly unlikely.
But the ageing male-dominated party has to ask itself just who it represents and, with an ever-declining vote, just what its future might be.
In recent years they have been plagued with scandals.
“At the 2016 double dissolution election, under the leadership of Barnaby Joyce, the party secured 4.6% of the vote and 16 seats. In 2018, reports emerged that the National Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce expected a child with his former communications staffer Vikki Campion. Joyce resigned after revelations that he had been engaged in an extramarital affair. Later in the same year, it was revealed that the NSW National party and its youth wing, the Young Nationals, had been infiltrated by neo-Nazis, with more than 30 members being investigated for alleged links to neo-Nazism. Leader McCormack denounced the infiltration, and several suspected neo-Nazis were expelled from the party and its youth wing.”
Like their senior party, the Liberals, they have a brand crisis. What and who do they represent? They certainly don’t mirror the image of the modern-day farmer. Certainly not the ones I see on television talking like scientists who know a bit about climate change.
Leaders who cannot comprehend the importance of truth as being fundamental to the democratic process make the most contribution to its demise.
But first, they have to overcome the outback Ocker image portrayed by men like Barnaby Joyce. It will only achieve this with a reappraisal of who they represent, Mining companies or small businesses and farmers.
It still hasn’t dealt with the accusations made against Barnaby Joyce by former WA Rural Women of the Year Catherine Marriott.
It is believed that there were even more complaints against Joyce. And WA leader Mia Davies, who expressed no confidence in Joyce, is still trying to overcome a party backlash because of her intervention.
Now, those like me believe her intervention was part of a conspiracy to get rid of Joyce to give then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull a louder voice. I know it goes back a bit, but it’s still their DNA.
WA Nationals have never been represented in our National Parliament, nor have SA, TAS or the ACT. Even their name is unrepresentative of who they are. It is all a farce when you consider that they have 16 members in the House of Representatives with half the vote of the Greens, who have one.
The downfall of Joyce the first time stands as a stark reminder that the Prime Minister couldn’t sack him as a minister because, at the time, he had signed a grubby piece of paper declaring himself a hypocrite for giving into Joyce on policies that he once so firmly believed in.
Like their senior partner, the Nationals have very few people with any talent. Well, by that, I mean talent for effective governance. They even had one member in George Christensen who became known as the ‘Member for Manilla‘ because he spent most of his time overseas for apparently seeking a wife (and at the taxpayer’s expense, I believe).
The old Country Party is just hanging onto power by the crack of a stock whip on a cold morning. Many in the country are angry that their party never represented them with a fast NBN connection. Many farmers feel let down by Nationals who have supported mining before agriculture. Not to mention their belief in a changing climate while the organisation they belonged to didn’t.
Just because clowns govern us doesn’t mean we have to laugh.
Over the years, it has often been muted that the two parties split. Maybe they should give it some more serious thought.
The Greens at the last election received 1.4 million primary votes, representing 10.2 per cent of the country for one seat.
Conversely, the Nationals received 624,555 (4.6 per cent), delivering 16 seats in the House of Representatives.
2 On Tuesday, the budget will be delivered by the Treasurer. I expect it to be a high spending attempt to buy victory at the next election. The Prime Minister will then likely meet with the Governor-General to announce an election date.
My previous diary entry: Brands Liberal/National are on the nose
My thought for the day
On the NBN: The problem with designing a network to meet the needs of yesterday is that it denies you the ability to meet the needs of tomorrow.
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