WHO DO THE NATIONALS SERVE?
Written by: Duncan B. on 20 March 2021
The forerunner of the National Party, the Country Party, was formed after the December 1919 election by a group of MPs who had been elected to represent rural interests. In 1924 the Country Party entered into an agreement to form a coalition with the conservative Nationalist Party. Since then, the Country Party and its successors have continued to be members of a coalition party with the conservative parties, although not always harmoniously. Today the Nationals form a coalition with the Liberal Party in the Australian Parliament.
Traditionally the big graziers favoured the Liberal Party, while the Country Party represented the lesser graziers, small farmers and other rural people.
In May 1975 the Country Party changed its name to the National Country Party, and then in October 1982 to its current name, the National Party. Today, on their website, the National Party claims “The Nationals are the Party for regional Australia. The Nationals stand for all regional Australians.”
The National’s Mission Statement says “The Nationals are dedicated to delivering future security, opportunity and prosperity for all regional Australians through targeted policies that focus on stronger regional economies, secure communities, a sustainable environment and the highest possible standard of living.”
The reality is that the actions of the National Party don’t match the fine words of its policies. The National Party has a long history of betraying the interests of the people it purports to support.
The Nationals are Climate Change deniers
The Nationals leaders like McCormack and Joyce regularly deny the existence of climate change and attack anyone who supports actions in favour of doing something about climate change. The Nations are divorced from their supposed supporters. Most farmers realise that climate change is real. They have only to look out their doors to see the bare paddocks, rivers and dams drying up and another day without any rain in the gauge.
They know that the seasons are getting hotter and drier. They have suffered in bushfires caused by climate change. Farmers read in the rural press that according to research by the ABARES (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resources Economics and Sciences) climate change has seen farm profits drop by about 23% over the past 20 years. They are aware of the projections that not lowering emissions now will see temperatures on farms increase by 1.3-2 degrees by 2050, and rainfall to decline by 30%. Farmers have seen the suggestions that if nothing is done about climate change Tasmania will become a wheat growing area! Many farmers are active in groups such as Farmers for Climate Action.
The Nationals are campaigning to have agriculture excluded from any emission reduction deadline. This will be harmful to Australian farmers trying to sell products overseas if other countries introduce carbon border taxes on countries with lower emission targets.
Many farmers are already producing food and fibre with sustainable, low emissions techniques and tapping markets for carbon sequestered in their soil and vegetation. One grazing company recently sold more than $500,000 worth of carbon credits to Microsoft. The Nationals are lagging far behind the people they claim to support.
The Nationals helped sabotage the Murray-Darling Basin Plan
The whole sad story of the destruction of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is told in Richard Beasley’s book “Dead in the Water” reviewed recently in Vanguard. As Beasley points out, the National Party played a major role in sabotaging the MDB Plan in the interests of big corporate irrigators, many of them foreign-owned. In doing this they went against the interests of the smaller irrigators and the towns and industries reliant on water, as well as ensuring damage to the environment resulting from insufficient water flows. Barnaby Joyce deserves a special mention for his role in the sabotage of the MDB Plan while Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources.
The Nationals constantly try to isolate farmers from potential allies
National Party leaders like McCormack regularly attack environmentalists, using abusive terms such as “inner city raving lunatics” and “pure enlightened and woke capital city greenies.” The Nationals support all the anti-union, anti-worker policies of the Government, and try to divide farmers from workers.
The National Party looks after the interests of mining companies against the interests of the farmers they claim to represent
The National Party’s love affair with mining goes back a long way. In his book “Capitalism in the Countryside- The Rural Crisis in Australia”, (Pluto Pres 1987) Geoffrey Lawrence tells how in the 1970’s and 80’s the Nationals sought to broaden their policies and their support base. “Its leader at the time, Doug Anthony, was conscious of the growing contribution of mining to Australia’s overseas trade and sought to ensure that conditions for the profitable sale of minerals abroad would be maintained. The upward pressure on the Australian dollar which resulted from the Coalition’s pro-mining policies subsequently reduced the competitiveness of agriculture.” (Page 10). (Doug Anthony was the leader of the party from 1971-1984. He was Deputy Prime Minister to Liberal Prime Ministers Gorton, McMahon and Fraser and held various portfolios such as Primary Industry and Trade. He supported the mining and export of uranium.)
Since then the Nationals have continued to support mining, often to the detriment of farmers. They support the continuation of coal mining, including the Adani project and advocate the construction of coal-fired power stations. They support fracking and back projects such as the Narrabri Gas Project, which is opposed by a broad group of farmers, environmentalists and First Nations people. Not surprisingly, the Liberal and National parties both receive generous donations from mining companies. In 2018-19 Santos, (developers of the Narrabri Project,) gave the Nationals $38,200, while Adani gave them $121,800!
From these few examples we see that far from serving the interests of “all regional Australians” the National Party mainly serves the interests of corporate agribusiness including the big irrigators, and the mining companies.
Many country people are starting to desert the National Party. At present some are turning to parties such as One Nation and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party. In some electorates Independent candidates have been successful, defeating Liberal or National Party incumbents.
Farmers need to learn who their real friends and allies are. They must turn away from the misleaders and join with their true allies - environmentalists, First Nations people and the workers in the city and country.
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