Attacking the divide

Brendan Forde is our resident Labor columnist.
Brendan Forde is our resident Labor columnist.

Brendan Forde looks at the Coalition troubles in Hume from a Labor perspective.

The 2013 federal election will be remembered as one of the great watershed votes in the history of Australia.

For the nation, the stakes are incredibly high. There are two clear choices before the Australian people.

On the one side, we have a government which has articulated a clear vision for the future in which everyone will have greater opportunities to fulfil their potential, led by a tireless prime minister who has established a clear track record of achievement and delivery.

The other choice is less appealing: a barely coherent, reactionary opposition, led by an individual whose total lack of purpose is matched only by his utter contempt for our democracy and the intelligence of the voters.

It is a little early to be discussing the next election. But here in Hume the Liberal party has prematurely started the campaign by selecting a candidate. The haste is somewhat unusual; the local Labor Party will elect its candidate early next year.

The haste with which the Liberals found a candidate for Hume has more to do with the party on its right, the Nationals.

I have long struggled to identify the key difference between the Liberals and the Nationals. For as long as they have been in political coalition the Nationals have been dominated by the Liberals, largely forced to abandon their policies on rural protectionism in favour of the free-market policies of their senior partners.

Both parties determine which electorates they will run in so they do not compete directly against each other. One would assume that a rural electorate such as Hume would be an obvious seat for the Nationals to field a candidate. But a deal hatched by the Nationals gave Hume to the Liberals. There has been a palpable backslash from local Nationals against this arrangement. This resentment has culminated in the independent candidacy of a local National, James Harker-Mortlock.

Does any of this really matter? The mutual loathing between the Nationals and the Liberals is a matter of public record.

But is there a tangible difference between a Liberal and National candidate?

The answer is no. Both parties espouse the same intellectually bankrupt conservatism, opposing innovation and reform.

The Nationals have lost any vestige of policy support for their supposed core constituency, the Australian farmer. The coalition has suited them very poorly; the Liberals will never support a National member to become leader of the opposition, or even prime minister.

In the end the people of Hume will have to soberly examine the state of politics in Hume. A Liberal or National member will result in the same thing we have had over the past decade: nothing.

Hume needs a change and only Labor can deliver it.