Efforts by locally-based Nationals MLC Ben Franklin to celebrate the centenary of his party were lampooned in parliament last week, just as some of the fiercest fires were ravaging across the state.
While most of the jibes came from Labor’s Walt Secord, Abigail Boyd from the Greens contributed, ‘I do not think it is appropriate for us to speak about ourselves in this place’.
According to Hansard transcripts, Franklin began telling the chamber on November 14 that, ‘It gives me enormous pride to move this motion honouring the centenary of the NSW Nationals, a party forged from the land, inspired by community service and driven by a philosophy of achieving regional equity.’
He went on to lavish praise while highlighting some of his party’s achievements.
‘It was the National Party that abolished stamp duty on intergenerational farm transfers’.
‘It was the National Party that established the State’s first Department of Regional Development and decentralised the Department of Agriculture from Sydney to Orange. It was the National Party that helped to pioneer the concept of State aid for independent schools and it was the National Party that established Australia’s first regional university – the University of New England – in 1954. That record of achievement continues to this day. The National Party has fought to ensure that 65 per cent of record spending on New South Wales roads was directed to the regions between 2011 to 2017.
‘We have created the $1.3 billion Regional Growth Fund to inject serious money into thousands of deserving organisations and facilities throughout the State, and we have quarantined every single cent of the $4.2 billion proceeds from the sale of the State’s share in Snowy Hydro to the Commonwealth to be dedicated to regional New South Wales infrastructure and development. The work of the National Party, in coalition with the Liberal Party, has secured $2 billion in vital drought assistance as our regions and farmers face one of the worst droughts on record. As our farmers face failing crops, water shortages and a diminishing supply of fodder to sustain stock combined with the recent threat of hellish fires, we must all rally together’.
Water theft jibe
When Secord spoke, he said, ‘I like a birthday as much as the next person – that is to the motion – but sometimes we need to pick our moments and today we would be better off looking after rural and regional communities rather than congratulating the National Party. The Nationals should be talking instead about water theft’.
While acknowledging ‘the great heritage of the National Party’ and its past members, Secord took a swipe at the current crop of MPs.
‘100 years from its rural foundation, the National Party is a mere shell of itself. Today it is a party of pet groomers, hairdressers, privatisers and water thieves. It is a party of Justin Trudeau fans, almond-milk drinkers, barbershop magazine editors, telemarketers and poo joggers.
‘Once we were able to trust the National Party to find their way around a feedlot, but the only troughs they encounter now are swimming pools in five-star hotels.’
After that, One Nation’s Mark Latham told parliament the party’s 100th year should be celebrated.
He said, ‘I congratulate the Hon. Ben Franklin on his speech. I note his country credentials. So much of his speech sounded so lyrical and poetic. How appropriate that a great-great nephew of Banjo Paterson would move this motion in such a fine way’.
Yet Green MLC Abigail Boyd wasn’t so inspired and said, ’Outside of this place we hear a lot from the public that politicians are really just interested in themselves, they like talking about themselves and they are more interested in their own party. There is a real frustration that once people get into politics they live in a bubble and do not understand their role any more. I see a motion such as this one, where party members talk about themselves – I make no comments on the particular party – as just a talkfest and love-in for themselves, and they invite criticism from others about the party. I think that is what the Hon. Walt Secord has done. I reflect and say that I think that these types of motions are an absolute waste of parliamentary resources and a real assault on our democracy’.