The Nationals have a serious problem. It is not just a problem of Michael McCormack’s beige leadership and being pushed aside by Scott Morrison on key country issues like the drought. It has failed on numerous policy fronts.
THE NATIONAL PARTY and MINERS
The Federal President of the National Party, Larry Anthony, is a lobbyist for controversial coal mining company Shenhua Watermark that sought to build a $1.7b open cut mine on the Liverpool Plains. Santos and Delta Electricity are also clients of his lobbying firm SAS Consulting Group.
Former Deputy Premier and National leader, John Anderson, was a Chairman of the coal seam gas front-runner, Eastern Star, which was bought out by Santos in 2011. Former National MP and Energy Minister, Garry West, is Chair of the BHP Coroona project, adjacent to Shenhua. Former Deputy Premier, Mark Vaille, and National Leader is Chairman of Whitehaven Coal. Former NSW Deputy Premier, Ian Armstrong, is the Chair of the Shenhua Community Consultation Committee.
And the pattern continues. Barnaby Joyce called on the NSW government to expedite a coal-seam gas project to be built at Narrabri in the National Party heartland. Barnaby Joyce and Larry Anthony urged the National’s federal conference to put a freeze on renewable energy and phase out renewable energy subsidies while keeping fuel subsidies for miners.
Barnaby Joyce took a $40,000 gift from Gina Rinehart but returned it when it didn’t pass the pub test.
The Nationals have become avid supporters of coal as an energy saviour. The National Party Minister for Resources Matt Canavan despatched George Christenson to Japan to visit new coal generators and try to drum up finance for new coal-powered electricity generation in Australia.
THE NATIONAL PARTY and CLIMATE CHANGE
With the drought in Eastern Australia it is now notable that at last many farmers are expressing concern about the contribution of climate change in changing weather patterns with their contribution to the present drought. But leaders of the National Party are just not listening.
The National Party along with the crazies in the Murdoch Media has always been solid in the ranks of the climate sceptics. In November 2009, the National Party told the Liberal Party that if they supported carbon pricing that would split the Coalition. That helped precipitate the first fall of Malcolm Turnbull.
Barnaby Joyce gave us all sorts of nonsense about carbon pricing and how the Sunday roast could cost $150 and slaughtering each cow would cost $575,000.
But nothing improved with Barnaby Joyce’s demise. The now National Party Leader, Michael McCormack shows no interest in the risk to farmers and others of climate change. In his maiden speech in 2010 he told us ‘not to listen to government grant-seeking academics sprouting doom and gloom about climate change’. (Mark Hudson – The Nationals have changed their leader). And there is no sign that Michael McCormack has changed his mind in any way.
In this blog on 8 August 2018 (JOHN MENADUE. The National Party is dudding farmers), I quoted Professor Lesley Hughes In ‘Cognitive Dissonance in the Big Dry’ . Lesley Hughes who is the Distinguished Professor of Biology at Macquarie University and a Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia said
‘Climate change is worsening the drought now affecting huge swathes of the continent, bringing gut-wrenching misery for farmers and the communities they support. … But the science is clear – warming has contributed to a southward shift in weather fronts from the Southern Ocean, which typically bring rain to Southern Australian during winter and spring. As these weather fronts have shifted, rainfall in Southern Australia has declined, increasing the risk of drought conditions, including in agricultural heartlands such as the Murray-Darling Basin and the Western Australian wheat belt.’
But despite all the evidence the National Party remains solidly in the column of climate sceptics.
The National Party and NBN
Turning their backs on farmers in favour of miners and disregarding the risk of climate change, the National Party has also abandoned country people on the NBN. As Paul Budde (National Party has failed regional Australia on broadband) said
Around 2005, regional Australia – supported by the National Party, the Farmers’ Federation, the regional ABC radio stations and many others – started the campaign for better broadband. It was that push that led to the birth of what we now know as the NBN.
Following the Great Financial Crisis in 2009 the regional plan was expanded to a national plan, with 96% of all premises to be connected to an FttH infrastructure.(fibre to the home)
However since the Coalition came into power in 2013 this high quality network was replaced with second-rate infrastructure. In relation to the fixed connections this infrastructure is based on re-using the old copper network, and this in particular will have a negative effect on regional connections, where the quality of that network is uncertain. Furthermore the distances between premises and the exchanges in the bush is greater and this also has a negative effect on broadband quality.
But once the Coalition came into power the National Party – initially the champion in the region – ceased advocating for better broadband in rural Australia and began to wholeheartedly support the second-rate broadband technology that is now being rolled out in regional Australia.
Having initially led the campaign for NBN the National Party is now content with a second-rate system.It is bought off with a few cabinet positions.In the process it duds country people
THE NATIONAL PARTY on RURAL POVERTY and POOR HEALTH SERVICES.
I have written several blogs on this subject. (‘The failure of the National Party on rural poverty and rural health’)
In that article and others I have pointed out that on the mainland the poorest electorates are rural and invariably represented by National Party members. But I have yet to hear a National Party member speaking seriously about the needs of the poor and disadvantaged in their electorates.
I have also pointed out that the National Rural Health Alliance which has 37 affiliated bodies, has consistently expressed concern about how country people suffer badly from inferior health services compared with other Australians.
But as with rural poverty, we hear practically nothing from National Party members about poor rural health services.
On the big issues facing country people – climate change, NBN, and health services – the National Party has gone missing. It is deserting its traditional base in favour of close relations with the mining sector. The National Party sees miners as offering a better future than farmers.
The National Party has deserted its traditional base.