As Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen returns to the news agenda, it’s time
to look at the Nationals. There’s a fascinating political corruption
scandal in the news that is very, very familiar in far the north – in
Canada. First, though, we need to deal with a canard that we thought we
shot, plucked, drew and served up a l’orange after the final election
results came in last year – National socialist Senator elect Barnaby
Joyce.

Liberal
Russell Trood won the last Senate spot in Queensland last year, giving
the Coalition control of the Senate, not the Nats – making the profile
of Joyce by Jason Koutsoukis The Sunday Age
as credible as Joyce’s own rantings. The welfare bludger spouted his
“you owe us a living” policy agenda before claiming “that’s what the
324,000 people who voted for me want.” Where did he get that figure
from? Look at the actual election results here
. According to the Australian Electoral Commission, Joyce scored just
4,698 first preference votes and the Nats ticket a grand total of
144,614.

Anyway,
to Canada. We normally think of Canada as a squeaky-clean land – if we
think of it all – but a judicial inquiry in Montreal has been hearing
charges that the governing Liberal Party has been running was running a
system of extortion, embezzlement, kickbacks and bribes.

The New York Times
carried an op-ed on the scandal by David Frum yesterday which tells how
last week Canadians learned that “one of the closest friends of former
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was paid more than $5 million for work
that was never done and on the authority of invoices that were forged
or faked. It is charged that this same friend then arranged for up to
$1 million to be kicked back in campaign contributions to Mr Chrétien’s
Liberal Party.”

It sounds like the old Queensland Nats. And so does Frum’s conclusion:

Canada’s
Liberals are not a party built around certain policies and principles.
They are instead what political scientists call a brokerage party,
similar to the old Italian Christian Democrats or India’s Congress
Party: a political entity without fixed principles or policies that
exploits the power of the central state to bribe or bully incompatible
constituencies to join together to share the spoils of government. As
countries modernize, they tend to leave brokerage parties behind. Very
belatedly, that moment of maturity may now be arriving in Canada.

That also explains why the Nationals are dying – and the increasing shrillness of people like Barnaby Joyce.

Peter Fray

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