Barnaby Joyce writes for the Canberra Times:
Jaunt through colourful past brings future into focus
Politics at the federal level has lost much of its lustre. The Labor Party are screaming at us through the nightly news that they are for the high jump. You can almost tell that they are past caring.
They do care about preselections in their dwindling number of safe seats, though. So there is a high degree of interest in whether Senator David Feeney the “faceless man” can become “Batman” (i.e. member of) after the retirement of Martin Ferguson. I suppose he will then be the “faceless batman”.
When the present situation in Australian politics gets you down, there is respite in our past.If you are a politics junkie then Tenterfield, in the northern New England, is a must. Tenterfield is the place where our continent was united, where our states joined to become one “indissoluble Federal Commonwealth”, in the words of the preamble to our Constitution.
We are the only island continent not burdened with the divisions and demarcations of national borders.
Tenterfield gets its name from the home in Scotland of the Donaldsons, Stuart Donaldson being a pioneer in the area and also the first premier of NSW.
Tenterfield was prepared as a battle site to defend Australia from invasion by Japan in World War II and tank traps can still be seen in the country nearby. Not to be parochial it was also the home of Robert Mackenzie, the third premier of Queensland. It was the last major railway station going north before the ultimate tariff, narrow-gauge railway lines, brought things to a grinding halt in Queensland. It was the home of Major James Thomas, who defended Breaker Morant, a seminal action in our history, Australia taking one of its first steps away from English oversight.
Dr Earl Page and John Hynes started the NSW Country Party in Tenterfield in around 1918, today Australia’s second-longest established party, after the Australian Labor Party.
Most noted of course is the 1889 federation debates held at the School of Arts on Tenterfield’s main street, and the paternal role that Sir Henry Parkes played in those debates. Edward Whereat withdrew from election for the NSW seat of Tenterfield to allow Sir Henry Parkes to make one of his many re-entries to Parliament. It is said that Parkes showed his gratitude by visiting Tenterfield perhaps twice during his tenure as the local member.
If politics drives someone in your party around the twist and they are searching for something lighter, well Peter Allen came from Tenterfield also.
Hanging in the School of Arts is the New England flag from the failed 1967 referendum to create a new state apart from NSW. The local member, until only very recently, was Richard Torbay. Even though he has resigned and been referred to ICAC, he was still polling at more than 50 per cent weeks out from a by-election he was not standing for.
To the west of Tenterfield is the derelict tobacco drying sheds, the casualty of a policy that says it is all right to kill yourself with smoking but you must do it with tobacco grown overseas. In town is one of Australia’s most successful hearse manufacturers, who are being killed by overseas tariffs.
The remainder of the world that excludes Australia lives in a pragmatic place away from the divine word of the free market gospel and premises their policies on bilateral arrangements of mutually negotiated benefit.
Drake to the east of Tenterfield used to have a timber industry which the Greens closed down. It once had a mining industry which the Greens don’t support, and it has a cattle industry which the Greens are trying to shut. Not surprisingly, the unemployment rate is through the roof. This is yet another iteration of current Australian politics.
The election that will be held in 100 days’ time will fundamentally be an election about the future, not the past, nor the present. Does Australia want a future where sensible government is returned to Canberra? Or will we continue to wallow in the morass of excessive promises, high debt and internal fascinations that have dominated federal politics for the last five years?
I think the Australian people have basically made their mind up on this question. The interest will turn to localised battles, where the margins for defeat are high, such as in New England.
In those seats, the people will ask themselves do they feel that the Labor Party, Ms Gillard and Mr Swan deserve endorsement of their current form of government? Or should they change to the alternative side, and most likely have a representative who is part of the solution to fixing their problems?
Love the sarcasm.