I refer to the story appearing in The NDL, Tuesday 17 October 2017 titled “NSW by-elections: Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall and Young Nats dismiss swings against party”.
I believe if those swings were against another party such as the ALP, The Nationals named in this story would be crowing triumphantly and I would share their jubilation if I was confident they had the best interests of rural people at heart and acted in the utmost good faith. Unfortunately this party is shackled to the whims of its master the Liberals and to their donors primarily from extractive industries.
At the 2016 Orange by-election the swing was over 30%, almost 20% in Cootamundra and 15% in Murray. Between 1988 and 2016 the average loss of first preference vote by governments at by-elections was 9%. I guess The Nationals were happy that they retained Cootamundra and Murray, but these are significant swings and if repeated in seats such as Lismore, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Tamworth at a general election, would see The Nationals lose those seats.
I believe sincerely that The Nationals have lost touch with their roots particularly the farming communities where extractive industries and fly-in-fly-out workers are considered more important to the State and local economies than food production.
Many of those extractive industries are donors of the major parties. In NSW, there is no royalties for regions policy that returns a mandated amount of royalty income back to the regions where extractive industries occur unlike the Western Australian Nationals. With such a policy rural people, particularly farming communities could see some compensation injected back into their local communities from mining.
There is scant concern for the farmland or most importantly the aquifers below and some of the coal exploration licenses were issued by a corrupt and gaoled former minister and not cancelled by this government. What does that tell you about their processes?
In June 2014 when Kevin Anderson and Adam Marshall yielded on electricity privatisation they declared a victory for energy prices and Essential Energy jobs. As we know, energy prices are well up and Essential Energy redundancies more than 1,500 with more to come. We all know the negative impact high electricity prices are having on consumers, pensioners and local businesses reliant on electricity but not a whimper from your local MP.
Both men claimed they won a $6 billion concession for rural and coastal NSW electorates held by The Nationals which equates to around $290 million per electorate. With the exception of possibly Northern Tablelands nothing like that sort of funding would have been seen in any other rural electorate since 2014.
Earlier this year The Nationals again rolled over for a whim of the Libs when they agreed to sell the Titles and Registry Service of Land & Property Information, the State government service that protected your freehold land under the Torrens Title system. This was sold for the benefit of Parramatta stadium and the people of Sydney NOT rural NSW. Many voters won’t appreciate the folly of this sale until they transfer property, request a copy of their certificate of title or register a plan or easement with the added cost to buying or selling a property.
Cuts to TAFE have seen fees dramatically increase and enrolments decrease. Education is the key to many social issues throughout rural NSW but that seems to be lost on our rural representatives who gloss over the importance of education. The former education Minister and Member for Murray, Adrian Piccoli lauded GONSKI but because the Commonwealth Liberals and Nationals didn’t, he was replaced by a State Liberal with the support of Nationals Deputy Premier Barilaro.
There is no doubt some taxpayers’ funds have been spent on infrastructure around our region over the last six years, roads, bridges and hospitals but I believe we need representatives that understand the importance of private and public sector jobs, services and infrastructure to the sustainability of rural NSW towns. They must have services and infrastructure to attract and keep people living in those towns, they will wither and die. Why doesn’t any local Nationals MP jump up and down about the loss of services to their local communities? I believe they are too preoccupied with their personal parliamentary careers to cross the floor on important issues.
Rural NSW needs genuine decentralisation policies, not the policy we saw in the first year of the O’Farrell/Stoner government and then abandoned by Mike Baird and Troy Grant.
Water is a vitally important resource to rural people yet on the watch of Nationals MP’s has been so unfairly managed that it has been found that some special people didn’t even have to pay for it.
All the ALP, Nationals and Liberals seem to do is pass the baton to each other to the detriment of rural Australians and this is evident in the population decline of small rural towns. I would like to see rural Australians genuinely flex their collective electoral muscle to make the major parties understand that rural people matter.
If Mr Barilaro and his party colleagues don’t think they were being sent an emphatic message in the results at Orange, Cootamundra and Murray from rural people then they ignore the results at their peril.