Friday, May 16, 2014

Please, pretty please, can we have the Country Party back?

I am working on my Australian budget analysis and hope to bring it up at the weekend. Much of it has been covered in the commentary, but I am trying to focus on the dynamic impacts, not the politics. It’s quite hard, for some of the detail required for analysis is not yet available on line.

So far as the politics is concerned, Mr Abbott played hard ball in opposition and will now get that back in spades. That’s actually not helpful to any of us, but it will happen.

Reading the material and considering my own views: please, pretty please, can we have the Country Party back? The old Country Party and indeed the National Country Party and early National Party always tempered the more ideological and personal ambition driven Liberal view. Whether you agreed or disagreed with the Country Party, one of my friends used to fulminate in his beer over what he saw as special pleading, the Party prevented domination by a single position within the Liberal Party.

The Party was also useful because it asked different questions, concerned about the local impact of national or state wide policies. Sure, this might lead to special pleading, but it forced reconsideration of issues in a way that extended benefits well beyond any narrow sectional group. 

This is the National Party’s official position on the budget.

Record Investment in Regional Australia – WARREN TRUSS


The Nationals in Government are helping to deliver a record $50 billion in infrastructure and billions more to support communities in every corner of the country in the 2014-15 Federal Budget.

Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of The Nationals Warren Truss has spearheaded the record spend to ensure regional Australia gets its fair share and continues to be the engine room of the nation’s economy.
The Nationals have fought hard to make sure the regions are at the heart of our economic recovery, which will start with this Federal Budget.

This Budget puts in place the structural reform that will repair our economy and secure the nation’s economic future.

That’s why we are investing in the things that will get our country moving again - investments that will underpin our productivity and prosperity for generations to come – and why regional Australia has a key role in our plans.

Our Nationals team will continue to work hard to ensure our regional communities get the support they need to continue making a sustained contribution to our national economy, and the recognition they deserve for their efforts.

The centrepiece of the Budget is a fast-tracked $50 billion investment in new infrastructure, including in regional Australia:
– $6.7 billion to fix the Bruce Highway
– $5.6 billion to complete duplication of the Pacific Highway
– $450 million for more four-laning of the Western and Princes Highways in Victoria
– $480 million for the North West and Great Northern Highways in Western Australia
– $400 million for the Midland Highway in Tasmania
– $90 million for the Northern Territory’s Regional Roads Productivity Package
– Up to $1.3 billion towards the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing
– $508 million for the Warrego Highway
– $300 million to kickstart the Inland Rail project, linking Melbourne to Brisbane

Funding with a regional focus includes:
- $1 billion for the National Stronger Regions Fund to create stronger, more prosperous regional communities
- $2.5 billion to continue the popular Roads to Recovery programme, including a double payment in 2015-16
- $565 million to fix dangerous roads under the Black Spots Programme
- $300 million for the new Bridges Renewal Programme
- $100 million for the mobile phone Black Spots Programme
- $314 million for important capacity building projects across the nation under the Community Development Grants programme
- $320 million in drought relief measures including $280 million in drought concessional loans, $12 million for emergency water infrastructure, $10 million for pest management in drought affected areas and $10.7 million in social and mental health support.
- $100 million extra for applied agricultural research and development
- $15 million to help small exporters with costs
- $8 million to improve access to agricultural and veterinary chemicals
- $20 million to build a stronger biosecurity and quarantine system
- An extra $9 million for fisheries, including more support for recreational and commercial fishing bodies.

As you might expect, this bombed without a trace. Indeed. and this has become a rule, outside defensive comments at local level trying to play up the positives, the National Party does not exist so far as this budget is concerned. It is a non-entity. It has no independent position.

That makes me sad. As I said, please, pretty please, can we have the Country Party back?


Anonymous said...

That list adds up to roughly $21B not $50B. And it takes no account of reductions in hospital and education spending, nor of fuel excise increase, nor reductions (sorry, 'savings') made in unemployment support, family benefits etc.

But maybe none of those affect 'regional Australia'?

Possibly a good thing if it has sunk without trace.


Anonymous said...


You have to read it carefully. Mr Truss claims $50bn altogether, including the specified things (not said to add up to $50bn) in regional Australia.

Matthew said...

All in All, I really hope it benifits education in australia and doesnt end up falling to pieces. If it has to hurt fine, but I hope it hurts for good reason.

Matthew Hardy

Anonymous said...

Thanks marcellous - I can see that now - but as far as my second sentence, I'm still perplexed.


Anonymous said...

Actually, marcellous, I have read Jim's "red bit" again, and I now see that "funding with a regional focus" includes:

National Stronger Regions Fund to create stronger, more prosperous regional communities - what does that mean?

capacity building projects across the nation under the Community Development Grants programme - huh?

The majority of the rest seems to be about roads and bridges and black spots; all of which imply you can afford the petrol to use said roads, bridges and black spots - on your way to the diminished school, hospital, or unemployment centre.


Jim Belshaw said...

Hi all. Its a real rag bag of things lacking any obvious coherence. The National Party electorates are now, on average, older and poorer than the national average, so the cuts hurt. In NSW, both Charles Sturt and UNE are likely to be hit quite hard, although both are still crunching the numbers. So its not good.

Evan said...

A friend of mine was in the Labor club at UQ during the 90's. He said they could collaborate with the Nats on particular issues but the Libs never would.

It was the glory of the Country Party that they did genuinely represent their membership I think. Far more than either of the majors.

Jim Belshaw said...

I might write something more on the membership issue, Evan; just to pull things together. It was a membership based party, and that had both good and bad effects.