Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Shooters v. Nats
The party of the bush is neither listening nor thinking


With the Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie backing a major public investment in new coal-fired power this morning, and former and possibly future leader Barnaby Joyce seeking to revive the 1938 Bradfield scheme to send Queensland’s floodwaters south, the traditional party of the bush seems to have come unhinged, failing to understand why voters are abandoning it in droves as witnessed at the weekend’s NSW election. Engineering and economics are replaced by backwards-looking boondoggles, and urban taxpayers will be asked to shower ever-increasing largesse – more infrastructure, more disaster relief – for the benefit of ever-fewer people as the country’s interior gets ever-more inhospitable.

Because the Nationals’ policy prescription is grounded in climate denial, and because farmers are the most exposed of all to climate change, the party has nothing to offer its traditional constituency for the future. By siding with coal miners and gas frackers over farmers, the Nationals have charged off in exactly the wrong direction environmentally, socially, and in terms of pure electoral politics.

The Australian Financial Review reported [$] that a federal cabinet meeting in Brisbane today would consider investment in a coal-fired power station in Queensland in order to placate the Nationals. On RN Breakfast, Senator McKenzie defended that position, and revealed her party’s thinking: “The two industries of regional Australia – mining and agriculture – make up 70 per cent of our national exports, so if we’re not backing both of those industries, regional Australia may as well just pack up and move to the city.” Well, here’s a newsflash for the Nationals: when it comes to fossil fuel extraction, it is actually impossible to back both of those industries. One destroys the other.

Coal miners and gas frackers have increasingly come into conflict with farmers over the past decade in the Nationals heartland of Queensland and New South Wales – often over water but also over land, and also over housing costs and town-destroying FIFO and DIDO practices – and the conflict is going to get sharper. There are more votes in farming than in mining, and yet over and over the Nationals have backed the wrong horse.

That’s where the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party – the big winner from Saturday’s NSW election – comes in. Three of the four seats lost by the Coalition government at the weekend’s close state election were taken from the Nationals: Murray and Barwon were lost to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, and Lismore was lost to Labor, as was confirmed yesterday.

It is trite to observe that the Shooters are worlds away from the Greens, but there are some surprising overlaps between the policy platforms of the two parties on opposite ends of the political spectrum. And although the Shooters and the Greens have different objectives, they are both opposed to the Nationals. Both will back the underdog over the consolidating and automated corporations that are taking over the country’s interior: they will both back farmers over the miners, and both back communities over the irrigators.

Today, for example, The Northern Daily Leader reports that the Shooters’ victorious candidate for Barwon, the vegan farmer Roy Butler, has “wasted no time” offering to support a coal seam gas moratorium that includes the controversial Narrabri project. The Shooters’ water policy has elements in common with that of the Greens, particularly a call for a royal commission into the Murray–Darling Basin Plan, and an insistence on metering and audit. They would disagree completely on suspending the plan for five years in the meantime, as the Shooters are calling for, but there is room for negotiation. Which is why the NSW Greens water spokesperson, Justin Field, last week said: “The interesting thing about protecting our rivers, and coastal environments, and particularly improving habitat and water quality, is that there is a consensus between the political left and right. This is an area of policy where there is likely to be agreement between the Greens and the Shooters and Fishers. There is a great opportunity for positive reform in this area in the next term of Parliament.”

With 48 seats in the lower house, as was confirmed today, the Berejiklian government will have a workable majority, buttressed by a cooperative relationship with the three independent crossbenchers the premier met yesterday. In the upper house, however, the Coalition is likely to need the support of the Christian Democrats, One Nation and the Shooters to pass legislation. Of those three parties, it is the Shooters who are most likely to emerge as swing players, occasionally siding with the Greens and Labor. In NSW at least, the Nationals and Shooters are now locked in a struggle to the death. With the Nationals’ leadership staring fixedly into the rear-view mirror, they’re hard to back.


“Everything changed after Christchurch. You had an incident where a terrorist used social media to live stream and spread their messages of terror, hate and violence. And they did that on a platform which seemed to have so little control over its content that Australians, a 10-year-old Australian could log on to Facebook and witness live mass murder.”

Attorney-General Christian Porter discussing today’s meeting between the prime minister and social media executives.


“As the Treasurer of a state that relies upon $3.8 billion in coal royalties every year to top up the coffers, claiming that export demand for Queensland’s coal has declined is simply untrue and should be called out. The Premier tasked Jackie Trad as Treasurer to find out the facts on the future of thermal coal and it’s clear the facts didn’t line up with Jackie’s hard-green, anti-coal agenda.”

Queensland Opposition mines spokesperson Dale Last moves to censure the treasurer for saying that thermal coal is in decline.

The Number

The amount that One Nation sought from foreign donors including America’s National Rifle Association and Koch Industries, as aired in Al Jazeera’s How To Sell a Massacre, which will be broadcast on ABC Television tonight.

The Policy

“The Australian Greens media reform package turns the blow torch on the big corporate media giants and places quality, public interest journalism front and centre. With an inquiry to break up media concentration, a review of the social media giants and a series of tax changes and transparency measures we’ll be making sure the public interest is prioritised ahead of profits.”

Greens communication spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young announced the party’s media policy today.

The list

“Twitter will tell you that Russian Doll is a masterpiece. It will tell you – in the form of a hundred thousand retweeted memes – that ‘Sweet birthday baby!’ is already iconic. It will tell you that it is that most precious of things: a must-watch. How many must-watches are out there right now? How many of them do you know about because of social media?”


“In prioritising Muslim radicalisation, have governments given other extremist threats enough attention? Does this attack represent a specific intelligence failure? The president of the Australian Institute of Professional Intelligence Officers, Phil Kowalick, answers ‘no’ to both questions ... But Kowalick says those leading public debate tend to emphasise only one threat.” 


“The domestic spins busily through all 14 of these stories. Adelaide is in the great tradition of (mainly) female writers who map the psychological via quotidian detail. Styrofoam cups, beanbags, wardrobes that smell of old clothes, children that smell of children (or wardrobes), and dogs that just smell all feature. Spices, kitchens, food have particular places. Behind all the stories is an imagination of tropical abundance.” 

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


The Monthly Today

Failure to launch

The Berejiklian spill has been cancelled, but coup attempts are unlikely to stop anytime soon

Big stick, no carrot

The Coalition’s fixation on energy prices distracts from wage stagnation

Another Liu blow

What does the scandal surrounding Gladys Liu tell us about Australian politics?

In Liu of a defence

When Bolt asks if Beijing’s writing Morrison’s speeches, the PM has a problem

From the front page


Spiralling admissions

Victoria’s royal commission hears stories of a dysfunctional, under-resourced mental health system

Failure to launch

The Berejiklian spill has been cancelled, but coup attempts are unlikely to stop anytime soon

Image of ‘Sachiko’ my Miwa Yanagi

‘Here We Are’ at the Art Gallery of NSW

An opportunity for rethinking the position of women in contemporary art


The Newcastle trial of Graeme Lawrence

The second most senior churchman in Australia to be found guilty of child sexual abuse