Throwing (questions at) a National Party.

 

WHY DO THE PEOPLE of rural and regional Australia vote for The LNP/Coalition?

It’s an oddity that has defied explanation for years.

I’ve worked it out. We’re dumb! Simple as that.

I should know, I’m a rural lad.

I GREW UP in a town of just over two thousand five hundred people. A safe Federal Liberal Seat. A safe State National Seat. And believe it or not, the local council was a den of conservatism too.

Heaps of sheep plus plenty of wheat and cattle. Afternoon tea on Saturday at local district tennis was brilliant – especially in the outlying farming community home games … tucked beside the rarely used community hall … asphalt courts in the middle of nowhere (like a piece of road tamed and restrained by a high cyclone fence) … on occasions there was even a Methodist Church nearby. Clean air. Not much traffic. And everyone knew everyone (well, pretty much).

The fundamentals of global economics and the march of conservative politics farther to the right than was conceivable 20 years ago, has left The Country/National Parties (CNPs) of Australian Politics hanging out in the breeze – like a dag (sorry for the graphic image, but as they say, ‘you can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy’). And what a bunch of dags the CNPs look – supporting Liberal Policy when it’s in clear breach of the wishes of their constituents. Yet they still win elections despite the practice of CNP complicity becoming more and more obvious. If anyone could be bothered listening to his drivel and actually asked Kevin Rudd what he thought, he would say it ‘beggars belief ‘ … which is what I reckon too … but in the wash-up it turns out that Kevin is pretty much a conservative in disguise … and in denial!

I have an inkling that this entire matter has something to do with one of the cliché I endured as a child … something Mother kept going on about … there being ‘none so blind as those who will not see’ … never made much sense until now. That’s because I’m a bit dumb. The reason for this is that I was brought up in the country.

I am the grandson of a dairy farmer on one side, and a sheep and wheat farmer on the other. Maybe Grandpa was gassed in North Africa in WWII? Or could it have been the chemicals he used on the farm? There has to be an explanation. Maybe my relatives are also a bit dumb? I’ll ask around and see if I can ferret out who they vote for … and why they vote for them. Then again, maybe I shouldn’t? I don’t want to further entrench the stereotypic stigma that country folk lack political nous (despite the overwhelming body of evidence).

So how exactly does The CNP part of The Coalition misrepresent their constituents?

EXHIBIT A.

Mining Companies Vs Farmers – A Land Rights Issue.

IF GRANTING MINING COMPANIES permission to mine on farms, rather than defending the land rights of farmers is not a Liberal Party Policy, then I must have fallen asleep at the wheel and missed a major change in direction. Possible I suppose – it can happen on those lonely country roads. Lulled into a false sense of security by the solitude … out of range of mainstream media … accompanied by not much more than my own stream of consciousness … plus a few head of cattle standing lazily in the shade of a glade … mottled by the light beneath the eucalypts … a shrill cicada-symphony soundtrack.

How could it possibly come to pass, that something so fundamental … so basic … so critical to generations of rural families – the very land itself – not be considered as something over which farmers have some sort of sovereignty / primary rights / responsibility?

It is implausible that any rural community member would deem this as appropriate. Yet, country people vote for the coalition en masse. Vote that their rights to their land be dismissed … to make way for a single-use abuse of their beloved earth … by a share-market-owned, faceless, multi national companies … with the net result that they are left repressed, dispossessed and depressed … and quite possibly a toxic mess. Top that Dr. Seuss!

EXHIBIT B.

The rationalisation of regional and rural Australia marches on.

IN QUEENSLAND, AG COLLEGES (that’s Ag as in ‘Agricultural’ for you city folk who are wondering what I’m on about … a place of learning and sharing for those committed to rural / farming pursuits) are being consolidated and closed. Numbers are falling. Campuses are being deleted. Funding reduced. All under the CNP banner of economic rationalisation.

Even the QLD ALP looked after regional and rural Queenslander’s better than that! And all this time we have been sold the line that they are a city party looking after the ‘burbs’ so that we regional and rural folk had better vote for the CNP or face the consequences. Old habits are hard to break – and this entrenched notion has roots deep in decades past.

The CNP’s used to represent farmers and the rural and regional communities of Australia. They were once our champions and saviours. Representatives of the custodians of the land. The ALP was cast as the patron of a left-leaning organisations, primarily representing blue-collar workers. The Liberal Party championed the cause of the white-collar worker, Big Business and (more recently) Multi-Nationals. Of these bodies, The Liberal Party is the only one of these three political entities that continues to represent the values and interests of its core supporters.

The contemporary ALP is a populist facsimile of The Liberal Party. Well, pretty much – with policy preferences supporting Big Business and Global Markets. The CNP’s, a once potent partner in The Coalition representing the interests of regional and rural Australia, are now a lap-dog for their Coalition master on cold Canberra nights (instead of lap-dog I was going to use the term ‘Steer’, which is a neutered male cow, but an alternative meaning has to do with something that causes a change of direction and I wouldn’t want to give the impression that a concept so fantastic as that is part of the core values or aspirations of any of The CNP’s in contemporary Australian politics). The the people of regional and rural Australia, are now the equivalent of an old stallion put ‘out to pasture’ … in recognition of a past contribution and continued loyalty … not really of any value … making up the number in the back paddock … now waiting for the inevitable truck from Uncle Ben’s. We’ll be minced and added to the next batch of Pal … once again to make up the numbers … and ironically, fed to the very lap-dog we installed.

Woof!

All the spin about budget surplus and debt management compels us to maintain the status-quo. Why even bother? The fact remains that regional and rural constituents are such loyal supporters of the various CNPs around Australia there is no need to waste time listening to us. We always vote for our local CNP candidate, and if not, our local Liberal. On the odd occasion that we do else-wise, we vote for an ex-National Party candidate – usually a wolf in ‘independent’ clothing. The evidence is on the public record. Over 100 years of it is difficult to refute.

EXHIBIT C.

Removal of subsidies under the guise of continued support for Globalisation / A Global Economy.

AUSTRALIAN FARMERS ARE THRALL to some of the greatest variation of climatic conditions on the planet. Australia is a major agricultural producer and exporter. Agriculture and its closely related sectors earn $155 billion-a-year – a 12% share of Australia’sGDP. And that’s when mineral export prices are and global demand for Australian ore is high. Proportionally, as mineral demand and prices fall due to a slowing of the Global Economy, the significance of our agricultural exports will increase. The Coalition knows this … yet our arable land is being sold to overseas interests and multi-national corporations. The Big Business buddies of The Liberal Party.

So how does The Country National Party justify treason of this magnitude to their constituents? The answer is, they don’t have to. Instead of hanging their hides on the fence as a warning to other foxes, we reward these Judas’ with another term in office. Did I mention that country people are dumb?

EXHIBIT D.

Following the party line (and hook, and sinker).

THE STRUCTURE OF CONTEMPORARY AUSTRALIAN PARTY POLITICS denies any MP the right to represent their constituents in parliamentary ballots on legislation. MP’s tow the party line. This is not a theory. The results are (once again) on the public record. ‘Representation‘ (and I use the term loosely) by The Coalition looks particularly foolish due to the aspirations and ideals of The Liberal Party being so contrary to those of The Nationals. The differences are so completely irreconcilable that the struggle to conform is a daily challenge for many National representatives. The stammering frustrated doorstop apologies are wearing thin. So are the feeble excuses.

The potential for representation exists. By either reclaiming our current political representative from The Party Machine, or by considered casting of votes at the next election, the people of regional and rural Australia have the power to bring about change. We need only exercise it. We leave fields fallow when they are depleted. We critically evaluate stock level in pastures to optimise yield. We account for seasonal and long term climatic variations. A convenient excuse for our lack of political engagement would be to insist that we are too busy to re-examine our political allegiance. Country people don’t readily accept ‘too busy’ or ‘too lazy’ as a legitimate excuse. It is a luxury we cannot afford. Which leaves us with the alternatives: chained to uncritical tradition, dumb or (at best) naïve.

EXHIBIT E.

The decrying of all things Green.

REGIONAL AND RURAL FOLK have a keen disregard for all things Green in Australian politics. We have been sold the belief that The Greens are out to get us. The Greens have the audacity to support initiatives such as: replanting forests, acting as caring and thoughtful custodians of the land, considering long term viabilities, conserving habitat and water-ways, using water wisely and considering environmental consequences of activities and inaction.

I am no tree hugging Green apologist. I don’t belong to any political party. I do not have wings – left or right. What I want is representation for the constituents of regional and rural Australia. This is not a suggestion of how regional and rural Australians should vote – you should vote for whoever best represents your electorate. The fact of the matter is, we are not being represented in any way other than door stop apologies and thinly veiled lip-service.

It is time to accept that the aspirations of political parties have changed. Considering this, we need to change too. We need to become better informed about what every party claims to represent. We need to hold them to account when they do not represent that to which they lay claim. Politicians look the camera in the eye and assert that they are ‘servants of the people’ and ‘governing for the people’. Which people? I don’t see the aspirations and ideals of my community represented in any form in Brisbane or Canberra. The National Party cannot even manage to provide convincing representation on their website. I have copied and pasted from The National Party website and The Greens website below, to illustrate my point. I chose The Greens as the comparison not because I am pushing a Green revolution, but because they are most often portrayed as the enemy of regional and rural Australia. Frighteningly, The Greens appear to better represent regional and rural Australia, including farming families, to a far greater extent than does The National Party. And that is without even giving credence to The Liberal/National Coalition deals that reduce the representation of regional and rural Australia to that of accomplice to crimes against the population. I am serious, read this:

The Mission Statement from The Nationals website(http://nationals.org.au):

“The Nationals are dedicated to delivering future security, opportunity and prosperity for all regional Australians, through targeted polices that focus on stronger regional economies, secure communities, a sustainable environment and the highest possible standard of living”

And to add salinity to the wound, in the section entitled ‘What The Nationals stand for’:

The Nationals is the party for regional Australia.

The Nationals stand for all regional Australians.

We believe the future of regional Australia is critical to the future of our nation.

Our priorities are building stronger regional economies and secure communities, delivering opportunity and prosperity for all regional Australians, and ensuring a sustainable environment.

Stronger, more secure, sustainable local communities that provide the opportunity for everyone to prosper will deliver a stronger, more secure and sustainable nation.

The Nationals commitment to the national interest does not stop there. The Nationals provide a considered and commonsense perspective on all elements of Government policy and a balance between Australia’s political extremes.

It beggars belief. That is actually how The Nationals claim to represent regional and rural Australia! Not one mention of supporting their Coalition partners in the investment by multi-nationals in rural and regional Australia. Nothing about the rights of miners Vs the fast eroding rights of farmers. No mention of The Coalition stance on climate (we had better hope Abbott is right and there is no such thing or we’re going wish we were as well off as the dung beetle). What a bunch of frackers! The spin doesn’t match policy. If this ever got out, there would be … we’d … well … nothing really. Regional and rural Australia is either too sad … or too tired … or too depressed … to bother thinking about politics. Or is it that we are too dumb?

Meanwhile on The Greens website (http://theGreens.org.au) under the heading ‘Principles’ is this:

The Australian Greens believe that:

1.    the long-term sustainability of agriculture is essential for Australia’s society, economy and environment.

2.    sustainable agriculture is fundamental to supporting rural communities, which are a vital part of Australian society.

3.    rural Australia faces complex agricultural, environmental and social challenges; many farmers and pastoralists are actively seeking sustainable practices, but struggle to contend with increasing financial pressures.

4.    the combined problems of salinity, water quality, soil degradation and habitat fragmentation require an integrated approach at the farm enterprise, catchment and landscape scales.

5.    ongoing research, development and extension are essential to both improve the sustainability of Australian agriculture and to maintain its competitiveness.

6.    we must plan and manage for the likely impacts of climate change, increasing climatic variability and oil scarcity on Australia’s agricultural industries.

CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS! From a party that (so we’re told) represents the interests of inner-city electorates. There is more focus on farmers and rural Australia on The Greens website than appears on The National Party website. If country folk were not so slow on the uptake, I would suggest we do some serious research before the next election. I stress, I am not advocating that we all vote for The Greens, but at least can we stir from our collective slumber and re-examine the options. We do when it means keeping the family farm. We rise to the challenge every season – without fail. Sadly, we have no aptitude for politics and the exercising of our voting rights – as evidenced by results of elections past. What level of re-engagement would we experience if we all voted for The Greens at the next election? I reckon the alarm bells would toll so loud that anyone within ‘Cooee’! of Canberra would be subject to serious and lasting hearing loss. A welcome change from the muted voice we currently have.

Our kids are deserting rural communities in droves. They go to the cities and regional centres. It’s not that they don’t love the land or the rural lifestyle. They just can’t stand hanging around with a bunch of dumb hypocrites. Maybe that is why The Greens have success in inner-city electorates. It’s all the kids off the land who have been to The Greens website and reckon that it might help the folk back home if they force us to rethink our political ways. And perhaps they are right. After all, it couldn’t be any worse than the poor excuse for representation we are currently getting.

Occasionally we see signs of change. Bob Katter, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott have been pilloried by the mainstream media for resigning from The National Party after the last Federal Election. Whilst not subscribing to all of the political and social aspirations of these men, I proudly admit that I admire them. They have shown spine in the face of real adversity; something sorely lacking in contemporary Australian politics. So as far as I am concerned the National Party renounced representing regional and rural Australia long ago. Which reminds me of another of Mothers favourite clichés: ‘As ye sowso shall ye reap’.

AND YET, COUNTRY PEOPLE STILL VOTE FOR THE CNP, The LNP, THE NATIONAL PARTY AND THE COALITION … can you figure that out? My theory (and it is gaining momentum) is that we’re DUMB.

Post Script:

THE TIME APPROACHES when the good people of regional and rural Australia wake up and smell the bullshit. I don’t expect it to be in the guise of The Greens, that would be far too a radical proposal for most of us. My hope is that we overcome the party mentality and look for independent local representation. Real independents, and real representation.

There is a poem called ‘My Country’, penned by awoman called Dorothea Mackellar. Maybe you’ve heard of it (or at least part of it). Dorothea has beautifully articulated much of what is quintessentially a part of the Australian psyche. Nothing to do with political affiliations or being dumb … just wonderful, uplifting and inspiring observations. Drink deep from the well of Dorothea’s wisdom here (http://www.dorotheamackellar.com.au/archive/mycountry.htm) , stop and think, and at your next Federal, State or Local Election, use your vote to voice your thoughtful, considered and informed opinion. Send the traitors a message and cast off the shackles – just because we live in regional and rural Australia, we don’t have to act DUMB.