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It’s goodbye to the Nationals unless they become a genuine country party

Michael Hogan comments in The Guardian (16.2.17) on the challenge faced by the National Party to win back its dwindling constituency in regional Australia. The author argues that the rural-based party would need to adopt some of the social justice policies espoused by Labor.

‘One of the features of modern politics in the age of Brexit and Trump is the collapse of popular support for major political parties. The Liberals and Labor both know they are in trouble but are unwilling to face some of the issues. Meanwhile, the National party is idly standing by while its support base disappears.

‘The first modern shock for the Nationals was the annihilation of the party in the Northern Territory elections last year. After winning 16 seats and a clear majority at the 2012 election, the Country Liberal Party collapsed to not only lose government but to retain only two seats (in a legislative assembly of 25 members) at the 2016 election. In future elections the way back will be extremely difficult, as independents, the Shooters and Fishers Party, and One Nation will almost certainly be competing for the votes of traditional CLP supporters.

‘In Queensland, where the Nationals are also the dominant party in an alliance with the Liberals, the LNP is currently in opposition, but is looking at a potentially disastrous result in elections due within the next 12 months – probably this year. The reason is the popularity of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party. A number of current and past LNP members have announced that they will be standing as candidates for One Nation, rather than the LNP.

‘Currently 15 members of the parliament are present or former members of One Nation, or its brief incarnation as the City Country Alliance, although many now sit as independents. With Steve Dickson, a former minister in the Campbell Newman government, defecting to One Nation in January this year the LNP already fears copycat defections. The Nationals face complete collapse.’

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