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The bush betrayed

By Jack Wilkie-Jans - posted Tuesday, 9 December 2014

It's been a breath of fresh air to see on the ABC the documentary mini-series highlighting the history and changes of the National Party. One of the saddest things to see however, and we didn't need a television show to tell us this, is that the National Party is but a shadow of its former self and essentially a cheer-squad nowadays for the Liberal party, playing not much more than a symbolic role within the Coalition.

By extension of the shortcomings of the Nationals, of course the bush, rural and remote areas and the livelihoods and people there, suffered and continue to do so. It would be easy to say that a lessening of the Nationals' political sway within the Coalition and also the current, and sad, state of affairs for remote living Australians are due to the fact that the people of and from the bush have stopped fighting.

This is untrue, the people of the bush have never stopped fighting. The real question is why they have had to for so long, especially when considering the great love and reliance on the bush Australia and it's peoples had in the years gone by?


The Nationals were always different from the Liberal Party in that the way people who disagree with conservative values and the of course the current Abbott government never felt that way about the Nationals. Because the Nationals were never supposed to be about corporatisation and foreign ownership (in the way of reliance as opposed to support). In the past you would never have heard the criticisms being flung at the LNP coalition, i.e. greedy, care-free, poor punishing, elitist etc., ever be directed at the Nationals. I think today people don't really know what the 'N' in the Coalition's acronym really even stands for.

The National Party allowed itself to be swallowed (and hence forgotten) by the Liberal party. I am a supporter of conservative values and of course certain economic strategies of the LNP however I am more of a Nationals supporter than a Liberals due simply to the fact that I'm from the bush - Cape York Peninsula in Far North Queensland to be exact. I still hold that candle of the old faith that the Nationals and Liberals can and are indeed still capable of brilliant strategies - the kind which would make Australia stronger and more self-reliant again. That can only come about through true partnership and strategic equality.

It's clear that the National Party still supports the Liberal Party, perhaps out of old loyalty and for the numbers, and as such Liberal supporters support the Nationals. So where are the Nationals supporters? Watching the second installment of  'A Country Road: The Nationals' on ABC we see the Nationals' demographic or former supporters monkey-barring between independent politicians or smaller political parties. My single biggest criticism of the smaller parties is that they are not so much bush orientated as they are nationalistic. There's too much talk about Islam and immigration than there is with making the rural industries diverse and sustainable.

Naturally politicians must be versed in a number of issues, not just the ones they campaign on, but in these smaller parties any issue is really a ploy for votes not so much a catalyst to see real and beneficial change. But that's the nature of the beast and the same could be said and applied to the bigger parties at a different scale.

Either way it is definitely clear that Australia has been so politicised within politics that issues have taken a back-seat and with a two party preferred system a third, smaller and conjoined party such as the Nationals really is left by the wayside in this media circus. (But to clarify the system is probably more likely a four party preferred system because we all know that Labor and Greens are as good as coalition).

So does the country voice and do the country issues just need more air time to break through the Labor/Liberal monopoly of the serious press? Yes I suppose they do, it's something I work towards. But looking at the likes of Bob Katter and Pauline Hanson (although with the latter not so much these days) the issues they discuss whenever they get a media spotlight, which is quite often, are usually broader issues ie same sex marriage or immigration. Without doubt having strong opinions on these are a good way to get in front of a camera but knowing how to shift the attention when one's in front of it to perhaps the issues one would rather discuss on the national forum is the real challenge. The media here are at fault because for example, everybody wants to (because they love to hate) hear Bob Katter's views on same sex marriage yet they couldn't give a rat's about what he has to say about the dwindling Australian industries, chronic and mass drought and mental health issues which are rampant in all rural based societies, not just black or just white.


While at the moment the bush is being betrayed from without, and so too from within due to the fluid nature of political popularity in marginalised seats and demographics, I do believe that once these last growing pains of the bush finding it's voice and deciding on whether or not to return to the Nationals (which has stuck in there all these years, almost waiting) or splitting up between smaller parties or independents, we will surely see better days. I just hope that the bush can do this and get organised before the effects of drought take too much of an irreversible toll and that the currently dwindling Australian industries (such as agriculture) have not died before such a time comes to pass once more.

A thought to leave you with: No modern and advanced country will ever be able to repay the debt they owe to the remote and rural regions and the people who work there.

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About the Author

Jack is a Traditional Owner from the Western Cape, Cape York Peninsula, an Aboriginal Affairs advocate and he sits on the board of the Cape's peak body organisation for social, economic and environmental development, Cape York Sustainable Futures Inc.

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All articles by Jack Wilkie-Jans

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