Continuing in the spirit of Cate Speaks

National Party of Australia

Summary

Website: nationals.org.au
Social Media: FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube
Previous Names: Australian Country Party, National Country Party
Slogans: Getting it Done for Regional Australia
Themes: We’re the less popular friend of the liberals
Electorates: Upper House: New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria
Lower House: Barker, Calare, Capricornia, Cowper, Durack, Gippsland, Hinkler, Hunter, Indi, Lyne, Malle, Maranoa, New England, Nicholls, Page, Parkes, Richmond, Riverina & Wide Bay
Preferences: It’s a right-wing roll call in most places. The United Australia Party has replaced One Nation as the preferred number 2 vote in New South Wales and Victoria. Queensland is sticking with One Nation, while South Australia has the Liberals in that spot. In the Northern Territory, it’s the Liberal Democrats. Going further down the ticket, the Northern Territory surprisingly preferences Labor at number 3, but in all other Senate races minor, right-leaning parties get the nod.
Previous Reviews: 20192018 (VIC) — 2014 (VIC) — 20132010

Policies & Commentary

Oh hey, everyone, look who I found. It’s that less popular kid, you know, the one that hangs around the mean popular kid trying to get noticed? The one whose existence the mean kid doesn’t acknowledge until it’s time to get into that exclusive club because the less popular kid happens to be related to the guy at the door? What was their name again? Oh yeah, that’s right. The National Party. What a funny kid.

Yes, that’s right, it’s time for everyone to remember that the National Party (hereafter referred to as NP) actually does exist beyond the red-faced, ranting presence of Barnaby Joyce at Question Time, because without it, Morrison and his predecessors would never have made it into the Prime Minister’s office. The NP has dwindled over the decades, but it’s still a crucial part of the Coalition. Most of the time it’s seen as a rubber stamp for the Liberal Party’s agenda, and rightly so – there are any number of Coalition government strategies that have hardly benefited the regions that the NP claims to represent – but it does influence a few policies here and there. Let’s see what we can find.

The first thing to notice is that we don’t just have policy statements here. We have multi-page PDFs to wade through. Now, that would be awesome if it wasn’t for the fact that three-quarters of each document is, not to mince words, padding. And padding taken from Liberal Party documents at that, just customised to make it look like it’s all about the regions. Take the 11 page Forestry policy, for example. If you took out the anti-Labor ranting and the self-congratulation, you could cut it down by half. Lose the motherhood statements that basically just talk about how good and necessary this industry is, and you’re left with about three pages of actual policy.

And what is that policy? Mostly, the NP wants you to know that they won’t listen to those awful Greens and their Labor puppets. Not only will it keep logging of native forests, it’ll make more areas available to be chopped down, as well as create a Plantation Establishment Program..To boost the industry, there are promises to invest in a National Institute for Forest Products Innovation to be based in Launceston, grants to encourage adoption of new wood processing technologies, and funds to fight both illegal logging and cheap, illegal timber imports.

How about jobs in the regions? Well, that gets a whopping two paragraphs in 13 pages. There’s $2 billion earmarked to establish a Regional Accelerator Program, which is designed to ”drive growth and productivity in regional areas”. Quite what that means in practice is unclear, since there is literally no explanation. The NP also promises $7.1 billion of investment for ”key regions” to become export hubs, through the Coalition’s Energy Security and Regional Development Plan. Which regions, I hear you ask? Your guess is as good as mine.

Ah, here’s some actual targeted policy. The NP promises that regional apprentices who go through the Australian Apprenticeships Incentive System would get an additional 5% for their subsidy. Additionally, there will be over 29,000 placements available for regional apprentices. It’s good to see some recognition that the regions do have particular needs that require different solutions than simply carbon copying policies for the capital cities.

The Resources platform is a fairly unpalatable mix of lies about Labor (zomg carbon tax mining tax the world will end if you elect them), and shameless vote buying. Now, sure, all policies are about that right down deep at their foundations, but sometimes it’s just so blatant you have to call it out. There are no less than seven projects slated for Western Australia alone – two hydrogen hubs, two carbon capture and storage hubs, two ”critical minerals projects” aimed at tantalum and battery-grade graphite, and a shiny new institute at Curtin University. Why this sudden rush to spend money in Western Australia? It’s simple. The Coalition desperately needs seats there, and at this point in time, it’s not looking too good for them.

To give you an idea of how crucial Western Australia is – the NP has a 25 page document detailing just what goodies are going to flow west if it and its mean girl friend gets into power. Mostly, it’s just a series of re-statements of policies detailed elsewhere, with a few choice sentences that make it look like this is something special for Western Australia, and concern trolling about WA’s current love affair with Labor (at least on a state level). There’s a similar document for the Central Coast, where the Coalition is in danger of losing the seat of Wicks, and for ”Northern Australia”. where Lingiari is in trouble and Queensland voters are moving away from traditional allegiances.

Of the other policies, it’s only in Agriculture and Fisheries that there is anywhere near the level of regional focus that we might reasonably expect to find on a website supposedly devoted to regional Australia. Its 19 page document contains 10 pages of actual policy. These range from international trade agreements to national genebanks to specific initiatives to support agricultural shows and individual fisheries. Stripped of the political rhetoric, there’s good, solid stuff here.

The problems of pests and disease are tackled using a variety of strategies. There’s a proposal for more detector dogs to find incidences of lumpy skin disease in cattle (which can affect milk production and meat processing), a boost in funds for research into antimicrobial resistance in agribusiness, and an extension of a program designed to control feral animals. This is the NP at their strongest, appealing to farmers about those specific challenges that just aren’t faced by people who live in the major metropolitan centres.

Drought resilience strategies are on the agenda, paid for by the Future Drought Fund. Taxes on farmer’s income from carbon and biodiversity markets would be reduced, and there are some initiatives whose descriptions are too vague to really say more than ‘this is about climate’. Plant protein manufacturing development gets a boost, with funds earmarked for two companies (one international, one in South Australia). Queensland would get money for nut flour processing in David Littleproud’s seat of Maranoa, Minister for Agriculture and the NP’s deputy leader. Finally, there are a whole slew of road projects for Queensland and the Top End aimed at making transport of livestock easier.

It’s difficult not to see the majority of Coalition initiatives for the regions as little more than appeasement. So much is clearly targeted at areas where seats are in danger of being lost. That said, these proposals can’t just be picked up and dropped anywhere. There aren’t a lot of coal mines in the Mallee, for instance, and not terribly many cattle stations to be found in suburban Sydney, so really, the fact that these initiatives are slated for areas that need to be wooed is a fortuitous occurrence for the NP.

The policies of the NP aren’t going to be of much interest to people outside the regions, but it’s worth looking at them to see just how crucial the NP’s traditional constituencies are to the Liberal Party’s desire to form government.


Just a reminder that Loki and I lack the necessary Eurovision knowledge to choose the songs that Catherine liked to include, but we’d love to see what you suggest in the comments below 🙂

11 Comments

  1. Benjamin Cronshaw

    Good review!

    Doing some research, there were a few rare references to “climate” in policies. One reference in Resources (complaining about Labor talking about the coming end of coal and gas in Australia). Six in the Great Barrief Reef plan, mainly talking about adapting the Reef to live under climate change. A begrudging recognition that climate is a real thing, but nothing about mitigation (clearly would rather coal and gas continue forever) that would actually give the Reef a chance beyond the next couple of decades. There are a few more mentions in Agriculture with climate resilience projects (again, a bit of adaptation, but no plan for mitigation).

    Climate action would Australia’s environment and agriculture a better chance to thrive in the future, mitigating the projected devastating impacts and natural disasters. Taking advantage of the opportunities would also create new growth in the regions, but the Nationals consistently want to drag their feet and spend their complaining. Their climate inaction and preference for the resources industry is giving up on farmers, many of whom are dealing with the brunt of climate change and have witnessed see the changes firsthand. Not sure that it is really helping mining workers and communities much either, since the industry will leave them behind as soon as it becomes uneconomical (which is not, despite their complaining, going to be because of Labor).

  2. Laura

    Wait, the Libs and Nats don’t automatically put each other as #2?

    • Loki

      In Queensland and the Northern Territory, the two parties have merged into a single party for each of those. The Coalition is ungainly Sleipnir of a thing.

      • Benjamin Cronshaw

        Had to look up Sleipnir (eight-legged horse of Odin in Norse Mythology). Good analogy, haha.

        • Loki

          Sorry about that, I have a fondness for obscure Norse metaphors 😉

        • Loki

          Oh, and did you happen to look up what Sleipnir symbolises?

          • Benjamin Cronshaw

            Did a bit of reading, but do tell!

          • Loki

            The eight-legged horse represents four men carrying a coffin.

          • Benjamin Cronshaw

            That is some apt imagery, hahaha.

      • Laura

        Oh yeah. But what’s NSW and Victoria’s excuse?

        • Loki

          In Vic and NSW they run as a single Senate Group: Group D in Vic and Group G in NSW

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