There’s one thing that’s stuck most clearly with me from the Q&A from the issues discussed at last year’s Murray by-election Meet the Candidates.
It wasn’t candidates’ speeches - the content in each one was pretty much the same, and they all sort of moulded together into one elaborate, monolithic spiel about how yes, me, the candidate speaking, is the right person for the job.
What I remember most was a heckler, a guy in red flannel who leaned against the back wall.
When a question to do with funding came up, the guy jumped on it, and he brought to the surface what I think was the most relevant point of the night - the Murray electorate, then one of the safest Nationals seats in the country, is not important enough to get funding.
The Murray Darling Basin Plan is, in essence, the very embodiment of that sentiment – big-city politicians, the decision-makers who point the rank-and-file this way and that, care about ultra-safe electorates like Murray only insofar as they add an extra Nationals seat to Parliament.
And despite failing to properly addressing major issues during the by-election campaign, like healthcare and infrastructure, decline of local industries, and an environment plan inflicting serious damage to the MIA’s agricultural economy, they won
We, as an electorate, lost our importance the moment we became the National Party’s surefire bet. Here’s a fun fact - when you try to sign up to the Liberal Party’s website, you are taken immediately to the “donate’ page.
This is justified in the blurb, which reads: “Unlike Labor, the Liberal Party does not have access to the massive financial resources of big unions”.
On the other side of the coin, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers’ website greets you with the rather dystopian image of a posse of armed survivalists, and the promise that, if you pay up, they’ll protect your already-unimpeded right to shoot things.
The common thread here, of course, is that the bodies forming our government believe the way to win the hearts and minds of the common folk is by convincing us they stand for us, failing to realize that Turnbull and Shorten look as unconvincing as they do ridiculous in hard-hats and high-visibility vests.
The politician’s ‘we couldn’t have done it without you’ narrative is hollow and a tad ignorant, but it’s nothing new, and I think it’s starting to dawn more and more on us just how little national politicians care about the MIA in particular.
There’s a phrase the Americans use - “flyover country”. It refers to places like Kansas, Wyoming, the Dakotas, former dust bowl states mostly devoted to agriculture, so-called because they’re the places you would fly over as you travel from the metropolitan coasts.
With an unamended Basin Plan on the horizon potentially spelling disaster for local economies despite local warning, I think it’s time to face the realisation the MIA, for all intents and purposes, is flyover country.
What do you think of Tom’s synopsis?
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