AMID all of the talk about Senate voting reform, an aspect of relevance to rural and regional voters has largely passed unnoticed.
The new hurdles for winning seats in the Senate mean the Nationals will never again win a seat unless they are on a joint ticket with the Liberals.
Running on a separate ticket will be pointless.
This means any possibility of the Nationals walking away from a formal Coalition with the Liberals in the absence of a satisfactory agreement will no longer exist.
Wherever the Nationals ran a separate Senate team from the Liberals, as they do in Western Australia, they would need to ensure their candidates had another job.
They wouldn’t be getting one in the Senate.
As a result, the Liberal Party will be able to do pretty much whatever it wants without fearing that the Nationals will take the nuclear option and break up the Coalition.
This will create a perfect environment for the Liberal Party to further restrict irrigated agriculture, prevent clearance of woody weeds, confiscate as many guns as it wants, and pursue any other matter that impresses its new Green friends in the Senate.
The other people taking a big sigh of relief will be those few insiders in rural industries riding the levy gravy train, who will be more than happy to stop answering some of my uncomfortable questions about accountability to levy payers.
It won’t be long before the Nationals are forced to either seek a merger with the Liberals nationally, as has already happened in Queensland, or become just another minor party that the Liberal Party decides it would rather do without.
Adding insult to injury, thoughts that the Coalition will gain control of the Senate as a result of the changes are fanciful.
There is no way that can happen, now or in the foreseeable future.
Instead, the Greens and Nick Xenophon (who votes with the Greens most of the time) will gain the balance of power.
The likes of me and Bob Day – who vote with the government a majority of the time – are likely to be replaced by versions of Greens Senators such as Sarah Hanson Young and Lee Rhiannon, who rarely vote with the government at all.
This should be a matter of great concern to anyone who believes rural areas should not all be turned into national parks.
It is remarkable that anyone in government should think that giving the whip hand to the Greens is preferable to dealing with the current crossbench.
Some of my colleagues on the cross-bench are not always the most coherent people, but they are substantially less recalcitrant than the Greens.
Furthermore, there is something to be said for having a sawmill manager, a country vet, a blacksmith, a soldier, a footy player, and a builder in the Senate rather than the usual production line of lawyers and staffers who have little real world experience beyond an exceptional talent for splitting hairs.
Malcolm Turnbull’s plan for voting reform will not just silence voices on the cross bench, it will also silence rural voices.
It all looks rather deliberate and, so far, everything is going to plan.