February 22nd 2020

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Coronavirus: China must answer hard questions

EDITORIAL Inquiry needed into medically transitioning children

CANBERRA OBSERVED Nationals leave the home paddock unattended

ENVIRONMENTALISM Bushfires are being used as fuel for green polling

GENDER POLITICS Senator Amanda Stoker takes a stand on transgenderism

RURAL AFFAIRS Drought loan scheme deficient in delivery

MANUFACTURING Renewables push puts aluminium smelters at risk

ENERGY Is agricultural biomass viable as an energy producer?

SOCIETY Cold is more lethal than heat worldwide

CLIMATE POLICY Adaptation: A better way to tackle global warming

LITERATURE AND SOCIETY The poetry of Distributism

AUSTRALIAN HISTORY What if the French had settled Australia?

HUMOUR Ern Malley Writers' Festival goes 'bang'

MUSIC Nina Simone: At the raw edge of pain

CINEMA Where wars intersect our lives: A Hidden Life, Midway

BOOK REVIEW Atheism with an Islamic cast gives way to the Catholic Church

BOOK REVIEW The janitor opened a door




CLIMATE POLITICS Business joins Big Brother in climate-change chorus

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Nationals leave the home paddock unattended

by NW Contributor

News Weekly, February 22, 2020

What was traditionally the most stable party in federal politics has become the most volatile and unpredictable, with potentially dire consequences for regional Australia.

The Nationals, which are meant to be celebrating their centenary year in Australian politics, are going through a tumultuous period that shows every sign of getting worse, not better.

Over recent weeks, the junior Coalition partner has lost two cabinet ministers in Senators Bridget McKenzie and Matt Canavan, has lost an MP, Llew O’Brien, who defected to the LNP, and has experienced a failed leadership challenge.

Nats should realise that weeds will soon
take root in an abandoned paddock.

All this occurring less than a year after a spectacular election victory in which the party retained all its seats in the Federal Parliament.

Former leader Barnaby Joyce seized on the volatility created by the resignation of Bridget McKenzie over the so-called “sports rorts” affair, to challenge party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack. Matt Canavan threw his support behind Joyce and at the same time decided to resign from the frontbench because he did not feel it right to be a senior Nationals minister while also being disloyal to his leader, Michael McCormack.

McCormack is widely regarded for his decency, sincere dealings with people, and his hard work. However, his critics inside the party, most notably Joyce, claim McCormack has no “cut through” in the media, and does not stand up sufficiently to the Liberals in cabinet over issues including climate policy, regional development and competition policy.

Whether it is actually necessary to be a thorn in the side of the Liberals at this stage of the electoral cycle and after the instability that has marked politics for the past decade, is another question.

On the other hand, the Nationals do need to differentiate themselves from the Liberals from time to time, otherwise there is no point in having a separate party, and it vacates the field to other rural parties.

The Morrison-McCormack election win in May last year was meant to usher in a period of stable politics, but the fundamental differences in the Nationals about the approach to politics is erupting in spectacular fashion.

Following his failed leadership tilt, Barnaby Joyce declared that the issue was “finalised”.

“This was made as brief as possible prior to the first sitting of Parliament for the year,” he said in a statement.

“I support the vote of the room and will strive for the re-election of a Morrison-McCormack government as this is definitely the better outcome for Australia and especially regional people.”

Few people believe Joyce’s ambitions have been extinguished, however, and the unsuccessful challenge has created even more instability.

Several MPs, including Joyce, have threatened to be more aggressive in the Parliament, threatening to cross the floor on issues they feel strongly about.

And Llew O’Brien, the member for Wide Bay, has decided to quit the Nationals Party room and simply be a member of the LNP.

Senator Canavan, who everyone acknowledges almost singlehandedly won the election for the Coalition in Queensland, is freewheeling in the public sphere on a range of issues.

The Nationals “split” is not really over ideology.

Joyce, Canavan, McKenzie and McCormack are social conservatives, whereas new deputy leader David Littleproud and new Cabinet Minister Darren Chester are considered more “progressive” on social issues.

The enmity inside the Nationals is more to do with the north-south divide, over who gets what ministry and how the party operates inside the Coalition.

There is no sign of any truce on any of these issues.

And the problem is, with the Nationals, as long as the squabbling goes on, the greater the political vacuum in regional Australia, which will be taken up by fringe parties, ranging from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation to the Shooters and Fishers Party.

And an even bigger danger is the pretend regional independent MPs who will stand against sitting Nationals MPs, but who are in fact the antithesis of the sensible, conservative nationalist Country Party MPs of old.

All you need to know about
the wider impact of transgenderism on society.
TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm