The National Party has deserted country people on climate change, NBN, health services, and now the Voice

Dec 3, 2022
The National Party of Australia Logo 2019.

Farmers are the main sufferers from climate change- droughts, fires heavy rainfall and floods. The National Party has failed farmers and country people on numerous fronts. It has sold out to the miners.

The National Party and climate change

Farmers and country people are the great losers in the current and looming dramatic global warming.

Our climate has warmed by an average 1.47℃ since national records began, bringing the continent close to the 1.5℃ limit the Paris Agreement hoped would never be breached.

The recent Bureau Of Meteorology and CSIRO report paints a concerning picture of ongoing and worsening climate change. In Australia, associated impacts such as extreme heat, bushfires, drought, heavy rainfall, and coastal inundation threaten our people and our environment. Apart from coastal inundation country people are the most effected by global warming as we are seeing most recently with floods in Victoria and New South Wales.

The long term trends are clear. In Australia’s southwest, May to July rainfall has fallen by 19% since 1970. In the southeast of Australia, April to October rainfall has fallen by 10% since the late 1990s.

Lower rainfall that we saw a few years ago has led to reduced streamflow; some 60% of water gauges around Australia show a declining trend.

At the same time, heavy rainfall events are becoming more intense – a fact not lost on flood-stricken residents in Australia’s eastern states in recent months. The intensity of extreme rainfall events lasting an hour has increased by about 10% or more in some regions in recent decades. The costs to society are enormous.

The National Party along with the crazies in the Murdoch Media has always been solidly 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.

The current leader of the National Party David Littleproud last year warned us about ‘climate change zealots’.  He told us that we do not need the ‘big hand of government’ to reduce emissions’ We don’t need legislation to address the problem

Before him, 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.

The National Party refused to support even the most modest climate goals that Scott Morrison took to COP 26 in Glasgow, unless it was bought off with a range of expensive rorts. Far from leading on climate change to help farmers the National party is a laggard.

Earlier, leader Michael McCormack showed 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’.

Despite all the evidence the National Party remains solidly in the column of climate sceptics. It has sold out to the miners who more than any other group are responsible for carbon pollution and global warming.

The National Party and miners

The former Federal President of the National Party, Larry Anthony, was 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, was 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.

Nationals’ support for mining is particularly strong in Queensland – traditionally a mining-dependent state where resource investment has long been considered a means of rural development. At both the Queensland and federal levels, strong political connections exist between mining companies and the Liberal-National Party.

Matt Canavan told us 5% of our voters are farmers. It’s about 2% of the overall population. So 95% of our voters don’t farm, aren’t farmers or don’t own farmland.

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 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 (fibre to the home) infrastructure.

When the Coalition came into power in 2013 this high quality network was replaced with second-rate infrastructure. 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 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, including 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.

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.

We badly need strong country Independents who will really represent rural voters and help roll back the pending climate catastrophe. The National Party turns its back because it is able to get away with it. Country people need better political representatives. They are being dudded by the National Party.

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