Julian McGauren has summed it all up: “There is no longer any
distinguishing policy or philosophical difference between the Nationals
and Liberals at a federal level.”

He has unequivocally exposed the hypocrisy of the Nationals’ mantra
that they stand for something special and different for rural people.
They no longer do, and what’s more, the electorate knows it.

Wherever a respected independent alternative candidate has put his or
her hand up in state or federal elections over the past decade, the
voters have more often than not taken the alternative. Myself, Tony
Windsor and Bob Katter at a federal level; Torbay, Draper, Fardell in
NSW country seats; Ingram and Savage in Victoria; Cunningham, Foley,
Pratt, Roberts and Wellington in Queensland.

The Nationals are simply the little red caboose on the end of the
Liberal train, heading wherever their political masters go,
unquestioning, unchallenging, just happy to be aboard with all the
perks of office.

Look at the record: a gradual sell-off of both Telstra and the Nats’
claimed bush constituency; a cover-up of the parlous state of bush
communications; a disinterest in protecting our quarantine standards; a
trade deal with the US that delivers nothing for most Australians while
advantaging the Americans; blatant manipulation of federal grants
schemes; a refusal to countenance small business driven enterprise
zones to revitalise depressed country regions; support for corporate
over family farming.

The Nats have just 4% support in latest polls, and had less than 6% at the
last election. Yet with 12 MPs in the House and now four Senators, they
command five ministers and one parliamentary secretary. If we had
proportional representation in the House of Reps, which we should, the
Nats would have just nine seats.

At the 2004 federal House of Reps election: in NSW the Nats scored
350,000 votes while independents scored 309,000. In Victoria barely
105,000 people gave the Nationals their first vote, while 1.3 million
voted Liberal.

No wonder Senator McGauren wants to return to the Libs, where he began
his political career at Monash alongside Peter Costello and Michael
Kruger.