Nationals diminish party on John AndersonGREG SHERIDAN
The National Party has never shown itself in a more contemptible light than in its ridiculous and appalling decision to refuse the services of former deputy prime minister John Anderson as its lead Senate candidate in NSW.
The National Party is a dysfunctional mess, losing its support and losing its identity.
It is consumed by the petty jealousies of factionalism – appealing to the public with a figure of stature and consequence such as Anderson is far less important than simply maintaining internal factional control.
Federally, its best hope for the future, Matt Canavan, desperately needed in Queensland next time as the Coalition cannot rely on Bob Brown unintentionally delivering it seats – languishes on the backbench, as does its best woman, Bridget McKenzie, while Barnaby Joyce plots a return to the leadership.
The Nats are as divided, internally rancorous and in as much disarray as any party in Australia.
They are a particular mess in NSW. They won the recent Hunter state by-election and thought this a great victory. But the Nats’ primary vote was barely a tick above 30 per cent. When John Anderson was leader of the National Party, it regularly scored 60 per cent in many of those Hunter booths.
Anderson is not diminished by this ridiculous preselection result. He is a figure of the highest quality in Australian national life and for six years was deputy prime minister and a full partner in the most successful post-war government.
He is a moderate, articulate conservative. His integrity is a byword and he is universally respected in all quarters of Australian politics and society. He lives and works on the family farm in country NSW, two hours beyond Tamworth. Yet he is a widely consulted policy thinker, called on by Australian and foreign governments for advice.
His website and podcasts, in which he explores with guests profound policy, political and cultural issues, is a massive international success. His web interviews have had 14 million YouTube views and been seen on many other media as well. His podcasts have had 600,000 audio downloads and his website has a monthly Facebook reach of 14,000.
So of course, the factionally obsessed NSW Nats, on the road to political liquidation and intellectual bankruptcy, have no interest in a figure like that.
Instead, aping the worst features of the factionally obsessed Labor Party, it has chosen two former party employees as its number one and number two Senate candidates for NSW at the next federal election.
The community should understand – the Nats are not interested in the great world, they’re entirely obsessed with themselves and the minuscule results of internal conquest.
Anderson has a very good life outside politics. He was drawn to the arduous business of offering himself for service once more because he can see the enormous difficulties that Australia faces – the need to repair the budget, the overwhelming need to address the nation’s gaping national security vulnerabilities, the equally pressing need to restore some decency and civility to political debate. Instead the party went for anonymity and factional conformity.
If the outcome reflects the influence and preferences of NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro then he is fully as foolish as his public interventions sometimes suggest.