Let's get the Party started

We will never get more political leverage unless these rural seats become more marginal

A FEW weeks ago a small group of farmers and I decided that it was time to put action behind the growing chorus of voices calling for change in rural politics. Over the Christmas break we quietly launched the Country Party of Australia.

I am not writing to promote the principles and ethos of this Party. Rather, I am writing to dispel the myopic criticism that emanated from the Nationals' head office in relation to this new rural and regional platform. Apparently the Country Party of Australia and others like it could dangerously dilute the rural vote.

Seriously?

“The Nationals are ineffective and lack influence because many of the seats they hold are actually too safe”

I have spent an inordinate amount of time in Canberra walking the halls of Parliament House talking about problems faced by farmers competing in distorted markets and being exploited by monopolistic companies that control supply chains.

I have been dismayed at the lack of understanding about how the regional economy actually works and the lack of empathy from politicians and bureaucrats alike.

I have been forced to listen to apologists who justify their inaction in advocating for their rural constituencies by saying that they don’t have the numbers to be politically influential in Canberra. These same people have the audacity to suggest that we, who elect them, simply don’t understand the nuance of political process.

The simple truth is that the Nationals are ineffective and lack influence because many of the seats they hold are actually too safe.

Let’s follow the logic. The electorate I live in is a Nationals seat that is held with a massive margin. The seat is safely held by the Nationals due to rural conservative sentiment with no effective competition. This is in part because the National and Liberal Party have an agreement to not compete in the seat, but more so because there is no genuine non-aligned rural alternative.

This lack of political competition means that it doesn’t matter what the Labor Party offers, or what promises the Coalition breaks or fails to even make, the seat will be returned to the Nationals.

What is the point of either side of our political duopoly providing any meaningful political comfort or respite to this rural electorate? Simply, there is none.

“The political pork barrelling in marginal seats is numbing”

Many eastern state rural seats are taken for granted as Nationals seats, unless traded by the Nationals to the Liberal Party. Regardless, these seats are taken for granted and because of this we who live in them are taken for granted in the political process.

There is no point in either side of government doing anything beyond the barest minimum for these electorates because in the singular focus on winning government these seats are already given.

Often the barest minimum is more to be seen to be doing something for these electorates in times of hardship only to appear charitable in sympathetic urban voters’ eyes. There is rarely any real commitment to resolve the underlying structural problems that increasingly amplify any disruption to our sector.

Following this realisation that safe seats actually have limited political capital, consider how marginal seats are courted in the political process.

This is the political process that we are not supposed to understand.

Without going into detail the political pork barrelling in marginal seats is numbing. A simple example was the financial support provided to multinational car manufacturers to maintain operations to provide employment and industry in key seats.

In the meantime we have seen key political support for agriculture abandoned - or, worse still, horse-traded away with little regard for the viability of the sector. The social demographic of rural electorates is quickly shifting as these seats slide into the lowest socioeconomic classes in the country.

Rural and regional Australia is in a population decline. We will never get more seats in Parliament. The unconditional commitment of the Nationals to the Coalition means we will never get more political leverage unless these rural seats become more marginal.

The only way that we, rural and regional voters, will get more political attention is if our vote cannot be taken for granted.

Over 85 per cent of this nation’s wealth is originated from rural and regional Australia. If we are to be politically supported in a way commensurate with our real contribution to the nation today and into the future, it is essential that there is political competition for the representation of the sector.

We have seen an increasing tendency for many parties to pursue political agendas that are for the sake of the party and those within it, with little or no regard for the moral and ethical obligations that come from being elected to serve their constituencies.

The Nationals are no exception. They pursue an increasingly conservative and politically safe agenda deriving their political relevance from their place in the Coalition.

It is obvious that decreasing the margin by which rural seats are held provides far greater opportunity for political leveraging of those seats. The most crippling dilution of the rural vote is achieved by an unconditional commitment to a Coalition in which rural seats are taken for granted and rural politicians are subservient junior partners.

It is laughable that the Nationals should warn of the risk of diluting the rural vote from Parties like the Country Party of Australia.

Einstein’s definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over while expecting a different outcome. It is time to end the political insanity and create genuine political competition to arrest the decline in the political leverage and influence of rural and regional politicians.

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FarmOnline
Pete Mailler

Pete Mailler

is a farmer on the Qld/NSW border and a co-founder of the Country Party of Australia
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READER COMMENTS

Alec
12/01/2015 7:27:28 AM

For many years there has been a vacuum in state and national politics. That is why we have seen the rise of the likes of Pauline Hansen and Clive Palmer. Despite their election, these alternatives have not provided the outcomes needed. We must keep searching for genuine alternatives until the Coles and Wollies of politics no longer dominate. Politics and the media have each failed us in the same way. Unless the major parties urgently heed the call they will have to share power with others for the day of reckoning is coming.
Hydatid
12/01/2015 7:50:02 AM

Pete ...you don't need to establish a political party.....best you will do is occasionally get a senate seat that gives you a bit of power once in a blue moon...any reps seat will be lost in the wash of Lib/Lab. Why don't you convince maybe 50% of the population of Rural and Regional Aust to give you $20 a year to establish a lobby group (like the NRA in USA)...that would give you about $40 mill of grunt that no govt can ignore...trouble is that you can't even get Cockys (those with the most vested interest) to do it...let alone town folk
SC
12/01/2015 8:16:01 AM

JK, you haven't followed Peter's logic at all. You say the reason that the Nationals have no influence is "that there are simply not enough of them to make a realistic difference in the Party room." That's absolute nonsense. It only takes a few seats to make a difference in Government, as we've seen over the past 7-8 years. There are 15 Nationals in the House of Reps; if they weren't wedded to the LNP, they would make a hell of a difference. Peter's logic is very sound.
Qlander
12/01/2015 11:39:01 AM

JK, The Nationals have the power to change the government RIGHT NOW. Their either too stupid or too lazy to use that power.
Ian
12/01/2015 2:21:32 PM

We need more parties. With just 2 main parties and others sharing votes our country is not getting ahead. just look at the last Federal Election.
X Ag Socialist
12/01/2015 2:50:03 PM

A new failure to add to a li#Sustainable Population Party 21st Century Australia Animal Justice Party Australia First Party (NSW) Incorporated Australia's First Nations Political Party Australian Christians Australian Cyclists Party Australian Democrats Australian Equality Party Australian Greens st ? The Greens NSW Queensland Greens The Greens (WA) Inc Australian Independents Australian Labor Party (ALP) (including nine additional branches listed below) Australian Labor Party (N.S.W. Branch)
X Ag Socialist
12/01/2015 2:53:19 PM

Hold on there is more Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Drug Law Reform Australia Family First Party Freedom and Prosperity Party Future Party Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party Katter’s Australian Party Liberal Democratic Party Liberal Party of Australia (including seven additional branches listed below) Liberal Party of Australia, NSW Division Liberal Party of Australia (Victorian Division) Liberal National Party of Queensland Liberal Party (W.A. Division) Inc. Liberal Party of Australia (S.A. Division)
X Ag Socialist
12/01/2015 2:54:24 PM

Still some to go Smokers Rights Party Socialist Alliance Socialist Equality Party Stop CSG Party The 23 Million The Arts Party The Wikileaks Party Uniting Australia Party Voluntary Euthanasia Party
Bushfire Blonde
12/01/2015 4:36:16 PM

Good on you Peter. Please make sure that you promote the idea of putting the Katter Australian Party as your second preference on your how-to-vote cards and make sure that you talk to Bob Katter because he has got similar ideas to you. So much so that the Libs and Nationals have been trying to get rid of him ever since he pulled out of the National Party and so far they have not been able to! His party has got a good following in NQ holding the seats of Mt Isa and Dalrymple so please work along with him. One of the main reasons why he is not more popular Aust wide is because of the media
Deregul8
12/01/2015 10:08:04 PM

Yawn!
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Burrs under my saddlePete Mailler is a farmer on the Queensland/NSW border. His perspective and opinions are borne from seeing more than one side of many problems in his various farm leadership roles and in wanting to ensure a future for his children in agriculture.

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