Continuing in the spirit of Cate Speaks

National Party

Summary

Website: nationals.org.au
Social Media: FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube
Previous Names: Australian Country Party, National Country Party
Slogans: The Nationals for Regional Victoria
Themes: We’re the less popular, less cool friend of the Liberals
Electorates: Upper House: Eastern Victoria, Northern Victoria, Western Victoria
Lower House: Bass, Euroa, Gippsland East, Gippsland South, Lowan, Mildura, Morwell, Murray Plains, Narracan, Ovens Valley, Shepparton
Preferences: It’s a right-wing roll call in most places, although a very jumbled one – you could be forgiven for thinking that it was a Druery special, but Transport Matters would be further up if that were the case (while Angry Victorians and Companions & Pets would be further down). So the top half of the ticket (or tickets, in South Eastern Metro, where for some reason the Coalition has two), is a roll call of Freedom, the Shooters Fishers & Farmers, Angry Victorians, Sustainable Australia, Family First, the DLP, One Nation, United Australia, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party, Liberal Democrats and Sack Dan Andrews. Under them, in the same order every time, are the New Democrats, Health Australia, Transport Matters, Animal Justice, Legalise Cannabis, Reason, Greens, Victorian Socialists and last of all the ALP.
Previous Reviews: 202220192018 (VIC) — 2014 (VIC) — 20132010

Policies & Commentary

To say that the Nationals are half-arsing things in Victoria is accurate (look at that slogan, with its strong ‘placeholder until we think of something better’ energy), but doesn’t give them enough credit for reading the lay of the land – they know full well how unpopular they are, even in rural areas. It’s no accident that Cathy McGowan got elected from rural Victoria – this is Australia’s most progressive state, and the Nationals are our least progressive major party.

So it will come as no surprise that they’re running once more on the “we’ll protect you from them greedy city folks” platform that has served them so well in the past. Their guarantees – they don’t have policies, they have guarantees1which is in no way a word that would bite them on the arse in the unlikely event the Coalition wins this election – are all phrased in the same way: rural Victoria gets the shaft funding wise, and we’ll change that. They are actually correct about the first part, but their record in power suggests that they are kidding themselves about the second part. The guarantees are all long on assertions, frequently resort to carping rather than let the policies stand on their own, and tend to more to breeziness than to hard facts.

So, under their Regional Infrastructure Funding Guarantee, the Nats claim that Regional Victoria is home to 25 percent of our state’s population, but we only received 13 percent of infrastructure spending in Labor’s last budget. According to the most recent estimates, there are over 6.9 million Victorians, of whom over 4.9 million live in Melbourne, so to begin with, the figures an exaggeration. The 13% figure is also kind of dodgy – it neglects to consider that, for example, the money spent removing level crossings on the Pakenhem line also benefits people living on the VLine route that uses those same rails. (Or conversely, that money spent maintaining the Hume Freeway is not as much to benefit to people of Melbourne as it is those of Benalla or Wodonga.) They’re also blaming the Andrews government for hospital closures and general under-funding of the health sector, promising that they will do better on that – a claim which apparently relies on rural Victorians not remembering how the Abbott federal government withheld funding for a rural hospital only six years ago. Or for that matter, the party that nodded and smiled while Kennett closed down rural train lines now passionately in favour of them. At least they’ve considered where the funding will come from – which is from ceasing any further works on the Suburban Rail Loop and redirecting that money, in yet another “stick it to them city folk” moment.

Under Fix the healthcare crisis, they have a lot of the same material about hospitals repeated, but some additional nuggets: the Nationals will also deliver 40,000 new healthcare workers (although how, and where they will come from, isn’t mentioned – and despite the rhetoric of their policies – sorry, guarantees – it isn’t specifically stated that these workers will go to rural areas. They are promising free public transport for them, though. They will also be delivering every single recommendation of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, which would mean all 65 items on this list – and most of these have multiple sub-points under them. It’s a big call, especially for a party that’s rarely cared much about mental health in the past. They will also hold a Royal Commission into the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Victoria, because let’s throw some red meat to those even further right than the Nationals. Rather more sensibly, they will implement a Future Pandemic Management Plan to ensure that the mistakes of the last two years can never be repeated, although I’m guessing they think there were more and different mistakes than I do. Still, looking at what we’ve done to learn how to do better is a worthy practice for anyone.

Also repeating a bunch of stuff from the infrastructure guarantee is the Nationals’ pledge to Repair our crumbling roads. And honestly, this section is pretty sensible. Better quality roads will save lives, and a combination of reduced funding, increased freight traffic and floods has damaged a lot of country roads. They will also re-establish the successful Country Roads & Bridges program with $288 million for local councils to maintain local road and bridge networks, and that under this program, each rural and regional shire and council will receive an annual grant of $1.5 million every year over four years to maintain local roads and bridges. Which sounds good, until you consider that different councils have different needs at different times, and just giving everyone a set amount each year is a very blunt response to a very complex situation. Oh, it’s also supposed to bring down council rates.

Under Reduce home costs and improve rental access, they plan to build a lot of new housing in rural Victoria, and to reduce red tape involved in building, which sounds great, but probably just means making things easier for property developers. They have absolutely no plans to tackle the sheer insanity that is our current real estate market, or to make life easier for renters. They also – and I confess, I’m stunned by this – intend to assist homeowners and renters with their energy bills, our Power to the People Plan will provide 1 million households, including for at least 100,000 rental properties, with a rebate of up to $1,400 for solar panels and $3,000 for a home battery, taking pressure off your family budget. Which is great, until you consider that you still need to find the upfront cash to pay for the panels or batteries before you get your rebate, meaning that this will do little to help the people who need it most, and is essentially another handout to the wealthier among us. You see, apparently, Family budgets have also been squeezed by the 43 new taxes introduced by the Andrews Labor Government, although nowhere can I find a list of these taxes, and the Liberal Party’s site labels a tax that only affects charitable institutions under certain circumstance as the 43rd of them, which hardly seems likely to be impacting many households other than in the most indirect of fashions. Never fear, though. The Nationals will repeal seven of the forty-three. Don’t you feel the love?

They’re also going to cut local2Read: metropolitan public transport fares to $2 a day and halve V/Line fares, making it more affordable to travel around your community and around the state, and to provide free kindergarten for all three- and four-year-olds (which should not be the deciding issue when casting your vote, as the ALP have the same promise). In addition there will be free lunches in primary schools, and a mental health practitioner available in every Victorian school (which needs further interrogation, as it’s phrased in a way that allows a chaplain to be considered a practitioner). They’re also going to rewrite our curriculum with $200 million to develop a streamlined program that prioritises the basics – reading, maths and sciences, along with the arts, languages and physical education – although I’m guessing that arts will receive the least attention of those six areas. Also, our postcode should never define our education, although it’s notable that this seems to only apply to rural areas, and not to, say, Melbourne’s western suburbs.

I’m not gonna lie – there are some sensible policies in here, although there are a lot more that pretend to be mean one thing but actually mean another. It very much seems like the National Party did not get the memo that Scott Morrison lost, and do not realise that the age of brazen hypocrisy is over. It’s a sad commentary on our politics that a party as venal as this is still better than most of their fellow travelers on the right.

2 Comments

  1. Simon

    “the money spent removing level crossings on the Pakenham line also benefits people living on the VLine route that uses those same rails.”

    Speaking as a commuter on that particular V/Line service…

    Can we all stop pretending that level crossing removal is about improving public transport? It’s not. The main beneficiaries are the road users who no longer have to stop at those level crossings. It makes very little difference train travel times – but the train users get the majority of the disruption, as we’re continually forced onto replacement buses for the duration of the works – something Gippsland commuters seem to experience more than most.

    In the meantime Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo got dedicated tracks through the western suburbs, while Gippsland commuters have to fight to maintain access to an overcrowded Dandenong rail corridor (there was a serious proposal a few years back to have all inbound services from Gippsland terminate at Pakenham). A third track along the Dandenong corridor would be a good start (Box Hill and Moorabbin have third tracks despite not needing to share with V/Line services), but the Skyrail development made that even less likely.

    (Not that I expect the National Party to do anything useful on this issue.)

    • Loki

      Well, I would argue that removing the level crossings is also a safety issue, and that benefit applies to road and rail users alike. It’s also meant that a lot of stations have been rebuilt, in newer, more accessible forms. So, no, I don’t but the argument that it’s all about the road lobby. Sure, it’s a policy the RACV loves, but it’s also one to PTUA loves, and that is a circle I never thought I’d see squared.

      However, I think you’re absolutely right about the treatment of Gippsland commuters – if they had to close the line for so long during that construction, they could have at least installed an extra dedicated line, or even two, for rural services while they were at it, and now it would be even more difficult to do. Yet another missed opportunity in the long line of them in the history of Victoria’s railways.

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