Poor form in convoy clunkers

THE contempt with which Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, a senior Labor Minister and Greens leader, Bob Brown, treated the many hard-working, passionate Australians who travelled from all parts of Australia to participate in the Convoy of No Confidence is disappointing and diabolical.

Sure, a convoy to express displeasure over the government’s handling of the Indonesian live exports suspension, its proposed carbon tax and power sharing arrangements with the Greens and Independents can only deliver a predictable message of opposition.

But to be a few hundred yards away and simply dismiss these people as being some kind of fringe mob - “Abbott’s angry people” - whose only purpose is to “whinge”, and then describe it as a “Convoy of No Consequence” is heartless.

It almost seems as if the government is trying to find new ways to make itself unpopular with rural Australians.

Many of these people were genuinely outraged by the sudden live export suspension and now face uncertain futures and extremely tough times as a consequence.

But it wasn’t just truck drivers, farmers, cattle industry members and self-funded retirees who made the unique journey.

Farming families like Blair and Lenore Knuth from Charters Towers also trucked 2000 kilometres with their four young boys to participate.

They will never forget the day the Prime Minister snubbed them, and Bob Brown and Anthony Albanese, mocked them from their ivory tower without listening to what they had to say.

Surely as political leaders they have a duty to show compassion and empathy.

In WA, I’ve been to several rallies where Agriculture Minister Terry Redman was far from popular and he and his advisers had no doubt they were about to face a hostile reception.

But by facing the “angry mob” – be it over Genetically Modified crops, drought pressures or other challenging policies and decisions – he won more respect by doing it than hiding in the distance.

Convoy leader, Mick Pattel, was given no explanation as to why the Prime Minister could not attend the rally and no reply to some of his other speaker invitations, which were also extended to Greens and Independents.

Independent Senator, Nick Xenophon, said the voters who travelled long distances to participate in the convoy and rally deserved better treatment than the name calling they received.

He suggested former Labor Prime Ministers, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, would have at least come down and spoken to the voters, even though they may have disagreed with their message.

Perhaps the result of how the government treats people like the Knuth family was reflected in last week’s Newspoll.

Voter satisfaction with the Prime Minister’s performance plunged four points, to 29 per cent, while dissatisfaction with her performance climbed three points to 61pc.

Ms Gillard’s rating as preferred leader was equal to her lowest mark of 38pc.

But to be fair, the approval rating for opposition leader, Tony Abbott, was far from overwhelming, eclipsing Ms Gillard as preferred Prime Minister by only one point.

Labor’s primary vote remains at record lows, at 27pc, with the Coalition steady at 47pc.

The convoy organisers, however, will have also learned a great deal from this experience, having set unrealistic expectations at such short notice.

While they had painted a picture of thousands of trucks rolling into Canberra, the final numbers fell well short of the mark at just 1000.

They also failed to deliver on their promise of handing a petition to the Governor General calling for an election, over their dissatisfaction with the Federal government.

The petition had about 30,000 signatures by Tuesday and Mr Pattel said he would now delay the symbolic handing of the petition by a month and a half, as more people signed up, in the hope of gaining a few hundred thousand signatures.

But despite those setbacks, there can be no doubt the many people who made the effort to truck across the nation in the convoy of no confidence deserved far better than the monumental snub which this government delivered.

Canberra CommentFairfax Agricultural Media Canberra correspondent Colin Bettles tackles the big national rural and agricultural issues which will impact regional and rural Australians.


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