NEWS AND VIEWS
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Perhaps All Nationals Should Become Family Men Now
It is a wonderful sight to behold how politicians become so concerned for family life when they lose access to their white cars and all the other lurks and perks of ministerial office. Treasurer Peter Costello led the way on Sunday with his selfless commitment to spending more time with his family rather than tackling the tough job of Leader of the Opposition. Alexander Downer bowed to family wishes in similarly ruling himself out from the same job as he contemplates a future other than being Foreign Minister. And then we had Mark Vaile, with tears in his eyes, choking out his concern for giving more time to his family rather than continuing with the thankless task of leading the National Party from the wrong side of the House of Representatives chamber.
For the rump of those left as National Party MPs and Senators it might be a good idea if the idea of becoming family friendly spread and they all settled for the life of back benchers. The main chance of actually doing something for the country people they purport to represent is to forsake forever the notion of ever becoming ministers in a government again. Relevance for the Nationals is possible immediately if the Party has the courage to put an end to its coalition with the Liberals.
Labor's lack of a majority in the Senate, both immediately and after the newly elected Senators take up their positions on 1 July next year, presents a wonderful opportunity for sensible horse trading of the kind Barnaby Joyce from Queensland has played at over the last couple of years.
This is the situation which Labor most likely will confront in the Senate although there is still a chance that the Liberals will lose a post 1 July Senator in Victoria to the Greens and that the Greens will lose one in South Australia to the Liberals:
Until 30 June 2008 Labor will have only 28 of the 76 Senators. The four Democrats, four Greens and one Family First Senators will not be enough to get the 11 votes needed to reach the needed majority of 39. Toss in the four Nationals, however, and things change in a way that would isolate those Liberals who are talking defiantly about not recognizing any Labor mandate on things like the abolition of Work Choices. Significantly Senator Joyce is already on the record saying that he can not see Labor's industrial relations plans being that much different to what the Coalition ended up with.
From 1 July 2008 Labor probably will have 32 Senators and could get its legislation passed with a combination of support from Greens, Family First and the independent Nick Xenophon from South Australia. A National Party prepared to play the blackmailers game would be an alternative route for a Labor Government and a wonderful way of influencing things in favour of rural Australians.
A hard headed National would surely see operating as a minor party rather than as the minor member of an Opposition Coalition would be sensible for the recent history of the Party shows that it is heading towards extinction.
The National's vote has more than halved since its peak 20 years ago. The grand notion of becoming a mainstream conservative party instead of a rural pressure group that saw it change its name from Country Party to National Party has been a failure.
Forsaking a future with ministerial office by returning to being a party of the country would make a lot of sense. Barnaby Joyce might just be the man to bring it about.
Owl readers might find some earlier stories on this subject on the website of interest: National Party Vote Slide Serious But Not Terminal and Blackmailers In the Ranks .