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The National Party is ‘feeling its oats’

Mungo MacCallum writes in Pearls and Irritations (1.12.16) that the National Party may not yet be out of control but it represents a far more frightening prospect to Turnbull and the Liberals than the cross-benchers ever will.

‘The Nationals are feeling their oats – also their sugar, their water and their pump-action shot guns. Quite suddenly the traditional party of conservative rural socialists are turning feisty and uppity – partly in self defence, but largely just because they can.

‘The new rambunctiousness arrived with the new leader, Barnaby Joyce, generally seen as the loose cannon needed to shake up the somewhat torpid regime of Warren Truss. Joyce was always going to be a bit of a risk, but one that was worth taking: the Nationals were generally seen as a rather limp appendage of the Liberal Party dog. And initially, at least, the risk worked: the Nationals did far better in the July election than their coalition partners and secured an extra cabinet position and enhance portfolio responsibilities as a result.

‘But there was a downside: the re-emergence of the minor parties, and in particular the perilous Pauline Hanson and her born again One Nation. Her own renaissance in Queensland was regarded as inevitable, but when she gathered another seat in the deep north and one each in Western Australia and New South Wales the alarm bells turned into a clangour. …

‘The Nats may not yet be out of control, but they represent a far more frightening prospect to Turnbull and the Libs than the crossbenchers ever will. With friends like these …’

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