John Anderson stood up in
Parliament just after midday today and announced he’s retiring as
leader of the National Party and will return to the backbench after the
winter parliamentary break.

The winner from John Anderson’s resignation is – Kim Beazley. The big loser? Amanda Vanstone? David Marr’s piece on Palmer and the cult of “mindless zealotry” in DIMIA in the SMH today shows the pressures on the immigration minister.

Her rambling 1,500 word email
to department staff last week and its risible claim that “we should
always see criticism as an opportunity to improve. Really, criticism is
free market research. Some may be wide of the mark, but overall, it is
a valuable source of free information,” shows a minister clutching at

But, back to Ando. We’ve been talking about rumours of
resignation for how long? If there was any need for confirmation, it
was the goss that his flak, Paul Chamberlain, has been scouting for a
job at Medicines Australia.

Who’d want to lead the Nationals?
What’s the point of the party? Their plum seats have been falling to
Liberals or independents. Their traditional constituency is
increasingly irrelevant – economically and socially. That’s why banks
and other services are withdrawing from the bush. The support for Free
Lunch Movement MPs in rural and regional Australia such as Bob Katter
is simply raging against the dying of the light.

To keep their
seats, the Nationals have to be a stroppy party. They want the best of
both worlds. They try to say that as part of the Coalition they can
deliver the pork their greedy constituents demand to insulate them from
reality. At the same time, they have to kick and scream when the
goodies don’t come.

We’ve seen the result. Massive RARA sleaze
ranging from all of the pissant projects the government threw money at
before the last election – cash for titty bars, for goodness sake – to
the ethically bankrupt relationship with ethanol producer and party
donor Manildra. And the likes of Barnaby Joyce.

Back in April,
we applied this description from Canadian-born commentator David Frum
of his country’s Liberal Party, mire din sleaze scandals of its own, to
the Nationals:

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 modernise, they tend to leave brokerage
parties behind. Very belatedly, that moment of maturity may now be
arriving in Canada.

It also explains why the Nationals
are dying, why John Anderson is going – and the increasing shrillness
of people like Barnaby Joyce.