Nats on the road to nowhere?

From today’s Crikey email:

If the Nats were hoping for a bit of a publicity splash from their leadership election, they picked the wrong day yesterday to hold it, what with a new government and Kyoto and everything else. Still, the elevation of Member for Wide Bay Warren Truss to the leadership of a depleted band of country cousins did inspire one quip from a blogger: “In Warren we can Truss.”

That might be about as good as it gets.

The former Trade Minister’s much more newsworthy Queensland Senate colleague, Barnaby Joyce, having variously thrown his Akubra in the ring for the leadership and deputy leadership since the Coalition wipeout, walked away with nothing and has made no comment at the time of writing.

Somewhat muted as well were the mutterings from the Queensland Nats’ organisational wing over the weekend. Threats to secede don’t have the same strength as they did in the days when Joh and Sir Robert Parkes effectively crippled John Howard’s first opposition leadership, or even when Bob Katter was still nominally in the fold. And the selection of Truss was always going to dampen down any rebellion from the Deep North, where in any case the once dominant party only holds three House of Reps seats.

But Joyce did succeed in one long term aim – seventh term Senator Ron Boswell was ousted in favour of NT CLP Senator Nigel Scullion. This isn’t particularly important in terms of Scullion’s profile – which is probably limited even for political junkies to allegations about beer bottles left behind after a fishing trip in a no grog zone despite his ministerial honours. Boswell, who’d long been a “strong Coalitionist” and hyped his closeness to Howard in seeking to retain preselection this time around, has a political style that couldn’t be more distinct from Joyce’s.

Joyce, of course, had expressed some public dissent about the Coalition campaign in its dying days, and made headlines by signalling that he might vote for the repeal of WorkChoices. He hasn’t shied away from South Australia’s sole Nationals MP, Karlene Maywald, who sits in the Rann Labor government, despite her persona non grata status with the rest of the party. Joyce appears to understand that selective support for Labor bills in the Senate is one way the decimated party could boost its importance.

A lot of the younger and unconventional candidates who ran for the Reps and who were much touted by Mark Vaile as the new face of the modern Nats were more than happy to express their enthusiasm both for Joyce and for floor crossing. They all lost, of course, weighed down by the Coalition banner and the opprobrium of WorkChoices in low wage regional seats which were in any case changing demographically. But Joyce certainly believes this approach would at least offer his party a future.

Truss and Scullion may not set the political world on fire, but Barnaby Joyce is well placed to in a closely divided Senate. His vote on the AWA transition bill in February will be crucial. He’ll enjoy the attention, but if the Coalition rejects the bill and he lines up with them, he may just find – like candidates in seats like Page and Forde – that rhetoric alone won’t differentiate his party towards electoral salvation.

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Posted in politics, sociology
8 comments on “Nats on the road to nowhere?
  1. Sam Clifford says:

    The national Nationals should follow the lead of the WA Nationals in their state parliament; ditch the Coalition agreement and look to a balance of power role in the Senate. They don’t have enough votes by themselves to pass the legislation but if they can get Fielding and Xenophon on side, they provide an alternative voting bloc for the major parties that doesn’t involve the Greens.

    Where the Nationals and Greens are diametrically opposite on an issue, such as water allocations for the Murray-Darling basin, the Nationals could attempt to negotiate with the ALP for a few concessions for farmers in return for supporting an environmentally damaging bill. That’s not to say that it’s what Rudd (and especially Wong and Garrett) wants, but it’s a possibility.

  2. swio says:

    If the Nat’s dump the Libs, I wonder if that would leave room for a Liberal/Greens coalition. I know it would be unthinkable to the social conservatives, but to the likes of Malcolm Turnbull it could be an attractive proposition. If the Greens can get their vote up to 12 to 15% in another decade or so the Libs might even have no choice but to join up with them.

  3. philiptravers says:

    Most of the problems of the bush as farming areas are well and truly analysed and known.Towns are another matter,as even under the instructions of Rudd to visit the homeless shelters,the ALP country types would not be able to do it.Passing through all the centres of the Universe which is the lot of the homeless everywhere, the ALP and an even enlightened Nats will not be able to count them.We have a plague of unrepresentative pollies,the Nats are not the worst of them..but bitterly fight to represent their electorates who tell as many self-protecting fibs as the accumulated wisdom of those who will avowedly point the fingers at the pollies.Do not encourage a third type of fibbing by proffering political groupings where the future can,is, and will never be planned.

  4. Graham Bell says:

    Mark and All:
    The Notionals certainly are hell-bent on oblivion.

    They defy all political common-sense by persisting with their failed coalition with the Liberals yet won’t even think about working with the “Greenies”. oops, I mean The Greens, with whom they have have so much in common. Some of the rank-and-file shudder at the mere mention of the name of Barnaby Joyce, one of the few skilled political operators they have ever had.

    They wasted a potential shire councillor when they put Boswell back in the Senate [and lost Baker and a swag of supporters in doing so]. Now, when Australia’s umpteenth trade disaster in a row is pushing more rural families to the brink, they put Warren Truss in their top slot; he’s a nice enough fellow but wouldn’t a tough-as-nails negotiator be a better choice right now?

    Looks like the Australian Democrats might outlast the Nationals.

  5. Paul Burns says:

    I think both the Nats and the Libs have slid into a kind of deathwish mentality post-election.Neither side was willing to elect the leader – Joyce, Turnbull – who could get them swiftly out of political oblivion.A lot of people won’t really care too much about the Nats – they’ll decide to wait for a good Independent to stand and punish them that way.(as we did in New England after the hopeless character that succeeded Ian Sinclair had been in fir a term by electing Tony Windsor.
    As for the Libs – with Nelson going to consult JWH regularly – that sends a shiver up my spine. It reminds me too much of Fraser consulting an aged Menzies pror to the tactics that led to the Dismissal.

  6. Enemy Combatant says:

    Holy Bjelke, Batman!!
    Now that they wanna draw their leader by ballot, the once proud Queensland Nationals have been reduced to a bunch of Lucky Dipsticks.

  7. Paul Burns says:

    Not the first time this has happened in Oz politics. I have vague recollections of the ALP resorting to the name in hat selection process after a tied vote in some internal party vote.But it was a while ago.
    Still, it does make the Qld. Nats look pretty silly, doesn’t it.

  8. pablo says:

    Can anyone point to a single occasion where Truss has baulked at following the Liberal line? Certainly I can’t and for an opposition party no longer bound by coalition rules this new leadership is a dry gully. If they weren’t prepared to go with a leader from the senate then they should have opted for Kay Hulls. At least being from the Riverina she could have carried a lot of moral weight in debates on water, climate change etc. I just hope Garrett comes back with his rural audit and the silly Nats are swept away with the next dust storm.

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