National Party — rural guardians or Liberals in Akubras? [by Andrew Phillips]

By Andrew Phillips, 21st December 2008

Those who know me well are well aware I have a deep respect for the rank and file of the National Party. The Party membership comprises some of the most down-to-earth, no-nonsense people with a firm grip on reality one could ever hope to meet.

Over the past year, the Nationals have been working hard to increase their profile. Plagued with barely disguised accusations in the media that the Nationals are a dying party, officials in the organisation are desperately searching for direction and identity in today’s political arena.

There are a number of options for the National Party. Those in Queensland have decided to throw in their lot, lock stock and barrel with their coalition counterparts the Liberals and form a new so-called “conservative” party with the lack lustre name of “Liberal Nationals” — hardly inspires hope on the part of party members nor fear in the black hearts of their socialist opponents now, does it? Same name, same lack of direction.

In other states such as WA and SA, the Nationals have sought to carve out some credibility as an “independent party” with the aim of defending the interests of regional Australia. The Nationals in WA helped the Liberals regain power breaking Labor’s deadlock across our nation, while here in SA, Karlene Maywald in her infinite wisdom threw her lot in with a minority Labor government and earned herself a ministerial portfolio for her troubles — but she’s still an independent defending the interests of regional Aussies against an urban centric Labor Party, of course.

The new Nationals State President in SA, Wilbur Klein is one of those furiously writing to regional papers to reassure those of us living in the bush that the Nationals are, and have always been, there continuing the fight to make our concerns heard. An independent voice, bound to none and welcoming all in the fight to defend the jobs, industry and services in the country.

Unfortunately, the track record of the Nationals leadership isn’t exactly glowing in this regard.

The Nationals were more than happy to ride along on the coat-tails of their Liberal mates when it came to pushing through economic rationalist dogma such as wholesale deregulation of primary industries, resulting in the losses of many family farms and various producers. Having been employed in retail, many suppliers told me that producers regretted the dismantling of the various industry boards that handled the marketing and regulation of their industries. Did the Nationals leadership speak up for these families? NO!

How many Nationals spoke out in defence of Australian wheat growers who lost over $140 million in revenue when Howard “forgave” Iraq it’s debt to our farmers for wheat exported in previous seasons? No consultation, no compensation — nothing.

National Party leadership claims of listening to regional concerns took a battering when residents in the South East of South Australia expressed some concern regarding the plan to fluoridate the water in the area — particularly given the proximity of the iconic Blue Lake in the region. A non-political, public meeting was held with invitations being extended to SA Water, politicians and our state’s Minister for Water, Nationals MP Karlene Maywald. Karlene displayed her interest in defending regional concerns by not even bothering to send a representative, let alone attending in person. Maybe regional interests finish at the boundary of the Chaffey electorate, Karlene?

The continuation of our nation’s primary industries is of major importance. When the former government announced the possibility of importation of apples from NZ with the possibility of introducing fire blight, along with stone fruits from Chile possibly harboring disease which could threaten local growers- the silence from the major parties, including the Nationals, was deafening. Defence of local interests was left to grower’s organisations and so-called minor parties such as the Protectionists and One Nation….

The Nationals continue to push for the importation of foreign labour to meet so called “shortages” of labour in our rural industries, particularly at times of harvest or picking. Australian Protectionists know there is a better way. Tax exemption for these jobs would result in luring students in their gap year, back-packers and local travelers who enjoy moving from various locations following this kind of work. It may well result in many of these people settling permanently in these areas once having experienced all a regional lifestyle has to offer.

Money earned by Australians, kept in the country, supporting local economies.

The Nationals continue to lament the shortfalls of professionals in our areas, along with the exodus of young Australians from regional communities. Apparently the solution is to whine a little, reassure ourselves that we are a resilient, stoic bunch and import another batch of doctors from Pakistan.

Australian Protectionists, while agreeing that regional Aussies are both resilient and stoic — not to mention resourceful, believe that the government could do more to encourage teachers and doctors to regional communities. Young Australians from regional communities only leave their areas to pursue their careers and education. By offering reduced or free education in areas such as teaching and medicine in return for a legally binding agreement to serve in regional areas for a given period of time would do much to encourage young professionals to remain in their communities. Such a move would ensure professionals serving their communities with an empathy for the needs and concerns held by their clients.

Have the Nationals come forth with similar policies to encourage the viability of regional communities with their distinctive Australian identity? No, they see no problem with the importation of foreign labourers and professionals with dubious qualifications and no empathy with the locals and no sense of history. They don’t bat an eyelid at the mosques in regional towns or the creation of Moslem cemeteries in rural areas such as Kingston on Murray…..

This is not the vision held by the founders of our Commonwealth for regional Australia, nor for our people nationwide.

It is not for us to “pick and choose” from their plan for our nation. It is not for us to ignore the solid foundation they gave us just because the globalist ideology is the new fashion and economic rationalism the new fetish, with it’s adherents declaring us to be clinging to an outmoded idea of nationhood.

The National Party leadership remain conspicuously silent on these issues, or continue their culpability by hanging onto the Liberals’ apron strings.

Regional Australians, along with National Party membership and the nation in general, deserve better.

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