At state and federal level The Nationals are getting agitated, which is no surprise considering their lack of influence against city-based Coalition ‘partners’.
Controversial comments last week from their state leader John Barilaro calling for the Prime Minister to stand down probably represent his frustration at state level, as much as federal.
Mr Barilaro, like our newly elected Nationals’ representative Austin Evans, simply does not have the political clout to affect decisions which impact on his heartland.
This is particularly evident with two present local issues that, in many respects, highlight the divide between Liberal and National thinking.
The first is the ongoing forestry controversy, in which any level of common-sense and historical knowledge would dictate that working, sustainable forests are a more sensible option than locking them up as national parks.
Mr Evans, in what now appears pre-election grandstanding with no hope of success, broadcast his intention throughout the campaign to introduce a Private Member’s Bill that would allow the timber industry back into local forests.
It appears he forgot to consult with Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton, who has made it clear there is no plan to change the status of the Murray Valley National Park.
Mr Evans, to his credit, was able to get Premier Gladys Berijiklian to the forests during the election campaign, but she has obviously backed out of this debate in the knowledge that city environmental votes are more important than jobs, prosperity and intelligent decision-making in The Nationals’ back yard.
Meanwhile we suspect Ms Upton’s knowledge of red gum forests is somewhat limited, judging by her background — the Member for Vaucluse was raised in the eastern suburbs, went to private school in the eastern suburbs, then university in the eastern suburbs. The red gum forests, nor anything else rural and regional, is not her area of expertise.
Her lack of regional understanding — like so many other Liberal colleagues including our Prime Minister — has been on show again with the botched recycling scheme.
Apart from the undeniable fact the scheme has been rushed and its implementation a pending disaster in some rural areas, zero consideration has been given to the potential impacts on regional communities, especially those close to state and territory borders. Nothing has been done to help with the adjustment process, to communicate how the scheme works, or take proactive steps to mitigate issues that have been raised.
And from a local perspective, again nothing has been done to appease any concerns which may be raised by our local Nationals’ member.
Austin Evans, like those before him, is ignored by the Member for Vaucluse, her fellow city born and raised Premier and the clutch of city Liberals who surround them.
In the past week the frustration being felt by The Nationals has bubbled to the surface. Our message to Liberal leaders at state and federal level is to start taking notice or risk suffering further disunity and political consequences.
From The Nationals’ perspective, if John Barilaro, Austin Evans and their colleagues do not start demanding — not asking, but demanding — their voices are heard, and action taken, they could well be the ones cast into political oblivion.