The surprising thing about the emerging scandal over the maladministration of the Regional Partnerships program is that anyone is surprised. What do you think happens when you put a National Party minister near a very deep – several hundred million dollar deep – pork barrel?

The National Party is different from the Liberal Party, the Labor Party, or for that matter just about every other political party from the lunar Right to the raving Left in Australia. It has no interest in the welfare of the nation, in good public policy, or achieving outcomes for the whole community. Its parasitic purpose is to leech off resources from the rest of the community to a minority interest of limited economic or social value. It has always been that way and always will be. It isn’t a political party, it’s a conspiracy to defraud.

That’s why National Party politicians are a priori unfit for public office. They are genetically designed to rort. We saw it in Queensland under Joh and we’ve seen it for years under the Howard Government.

Only in its early days, when fiscal discipline was rigorously imposed, did this Government control National Party pork-barrelling – if you don’t give them the money, they can’t rort it. But since then, the Transport and Regional Services portfolio has become a multi-billion dollar machine geared to delivering cash to rural communities and businesses for political purposes.

Regional Partnerships is only a particularly blatant example. There are many other regional development and rural roads programs in that portfolio. Does anyone seriously think they are administered any more soundly?

And, as usual, when Nationals are caught out, they attack the people who’ve exposed them. De-Anne Kelly was today blaming the ANAO for revealing the partisanship and lack of accountability in the program she administered. Just like it was the media’s fault that the National Party in the 1980s was riddled with corruption.

Even so, it is exquisite timing. The Government’s reputation for prudent economic management has been taking a battering for the last fortnight. The Nationals just might have helped kill it off entirely.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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