Here in Australia, we have entered another election cycle with enough elections or by-elections to keep the most tragic of the election tragics happy.
At the Redcliffe by-election on 22 February, Labor's Yvette D’Ath won convincingly with a swing of 16.3%. This by-election was seen as a test of the popularity of Queensland Premier Newman. Not that Mr Newman has to worry greatly at this point because of the sheer size of the LNP majority.
Down south, both South Australia and Tasmania go to the polls in elections widely expected to see the Liberal Party defeat the incumbent Labor Governments. This would leave the ACT Territory Government as the last Labor Government in the country. Meanwhile, we await the date of the WA Senate re-run.
In NSW, the latest electoral redistribution has seen a brewing fight between the Liberal and National Parties for the state seat of Goulburn (National ginger group attacks Goward, O'Farrell in battle for Goulburn). Here the fight is between two ministers - Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson (National) vs Community Services Minister Pru Goward (Liberal). The next NSW State election is still some twelve months away,
That NSW election will see the retirement of the National's Jenny Gardner. She announced her intention not to recontest her Legislative Council position on 16 February. Our connections go back to the time when we were both active members of the NSW Young Country Party. I have always had a high opinion of Jenny. She has worked tirelessly for the party and for country people in general. She is not your stereotypical Country/National Party MP, but then, many are not.
The Country/National Party has always been a broader church than most realise. It has to be, for it really represents areas rather than ideologies. If you look at electoral patterns over time, there is no such thing as a safe Country/National Party seat, for the Party is contending not just with Labor, but with the Liberals and country independents and now, in some areas, the Greens. This makes for a very particular mind-set, one in which you have to represent the whole people, not just those who agree with you.
That is why, after all these years, I still call myself Country Party even though it must be evident from the pattern of my posts that I disagree with many aspects of the modern National Party. And yet, when I come to talk to a National Party MP, I still find myself in agreement on core issues and especially the need for special representation for regional or country Australia and for my own North.