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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

We are amused

Senator Albert Patrick (Pat) Field
Photo acknowledgement:
Mark Vaile is almost having an apopleptic fit. The National Party in Victoria is like a stunned mullet. There's no doubt about those not-short-of-a-bob good Catholic Jesuit-educated McGauran boys. They just don't know how to behave. Peter, the reader will recall, resigned as Science Minister in John Howards Liberal-National Party Coalition Government because this well and expensively educated barrister could not get his travel expenses right. Well, to put it mildly, he was playing the system for all he could get - like milking a Gippsland cow. He was forced to resign his ministry and did so on 26 September 1997. Funny though, his entry in Wikipedia does not mention this fact. Is this because he did it himself? Now there's brother Julian. Perhaps he didn't do his own Wikipedia entry because it highlights his controversial career. Julian's behaviour in the Senate has not been impeccable. He is most noteworthy for giving the Senate the finger. And from such a good Catholic family! The McGauran family come from beautiful, conservative, Catholic rural Gippsland. I would be reasonably confident that if you had scratched a McGauran in the 1950s you would have found membership of the National Civic Council and support for or membership in the DLP (Democratic Labor Party). The Nats now have their own rat in the ranks. Mark Vaille, who leads the in-decline Nats, spat the dummy. McGauran's intention to leave the Nats and join the Libs, still leaving him in the Coalition ranks, is not good enough for the Nats. They want McGauran to go from Parliament and give them back their precious seat.

How reminiscent of 1975 when the ALP (Australian Labor Party) called foul over the actions of John Bjelke-Petersen, then the Premier of Queensland and Leader of the National Party in that state. John had decided to put a spoke in Gough Whitlam's wheel. A Queensland Senator died. This then left Gough, so he thought, with an ALP Senator to be appointed by convention from Queensland. The unwritten rule usually in play was that, in the case of a casual vacancy, someone from the same party would be nominated by whichever party is in power. The someone would be nominated by the party previously holding the casual vacancy. The government would then rubber stamp the nomination. But the trouble with unwritten rules is that they are easily broken rules. Joh manipulated the system and appointed a member of the ALP who almost no one had heard of - Albert Patrick (Pat) Field - and had not been nominated by the ALP. One thing about Pat Field is that no one could have accused him of being the sharpest knife in the drawer but he served his purpose and made his contribution to Whitlam's downfall.

So, Mark, seeds are sown and harvests are reaped. We reap what we sow. Now you know what happens when conventions get blown away and when people act in their own interests to overthrow and subvert them. Julian McGauran has made accusations that Barnaby Joyce's actions and his views have not been subjects of the usual conventions and processes. But then it is not only Julian McGauran you have to worry about. Your party is in decline. The Liberals tolerate the Nationals - but not very well. They don't need your numbers - they are so few - to form government. You keep yourself, no matter how much your vote and your representation declines, as a separate party, demanding privileges accruing to that status but not substantiated by numbers. Any wonder that Liberal members and Senators in rural and regional Australia complain that they have interests in portfolios kept aside for the National Party but are kept from the ministry and fully representing their electorate interests because of your special privilege. It is therefore open to question, Mark, whether your anger is for Julian McGauran alone. Is it because he told a home truth - that the National Party is not a Party of growth but the Liberal Party is? Or - and this might be more to the point - is it that a number has gone which is significant in percentage terms in a party of such slight representation. Is it that you face the question of how long you can even be considered a party in parliamentary terms? Is it that National Party clout will decline - especially in the Senate? If a National Party vote is subtracted by one and added to the Liberal numbers, what price Barnaby then? Is it that the vulnerability of the National Party is there for all to see? Is it that Julian McGauran's actions are the mirror image of those of Barnaby Joyce and both men are representative of clear divisions within the National Party that you can no longer paper over and for which you have no solution? In other words, while you are - through special pleading and privilege - trying to build up the credentials of the National Party on trade, the real issue is one that both McGauran and Joyce allude to - relevance.

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