It is with a heavy heart that I fly to Sydney today to be part of a meeting that has the intention of doing away with the political party that was created nearly 100 years ago to represent those Australians who live, work and invest in regional, rural and remote Australia.

The Nationals must not turn its back on its core constituency in its hour of greatest need! Now, more than ever, the people of non-metropolitan Australia need a political party to fight for them and ensure they receive a fair share of the wealth and prosperity of this wonderful country of ours.

The demographics of Australia mean that as people shift to the highly populated coastal and metropolitan areas, so do our politicians. These politicians, quite rightly under our democratic system, focus their attention and fight for the spoils of government for their own backyard. Where are the statesmen who lift their eyes up from the marginal seats and the election cycle to identify projects and investments that will decentralise our nation and underpin its sustainability and security?

While some in The Nationals turn their back on the people they represent, it gives me great hope that eminent Australians are starting to voice their concerns for our regions. Lieutenant General John Sanderson in his 2007 oration to the Order of Australia Association noted that “a large part of this continent is increasingly neglected and, for a significant number of our rural people, governance is weak and intangible” saying that “even the major regional centres of the mineral boom are becoming dysfunctional as a result of the economic distortion brought about by too few resources being invested in social infrastructure.”

He warns that we are failing to recognise the perils of not nurturing the whole continent and reminds us that “terra nullius” is being created again in Australia today.

Another eminent Australian, Fred Chaney, put it very well when he addressed the Chamber of Minerals and Energy last year saying “it is impossible to spend time in any of the remote towns without realising that the people have a sense of estrangement, abandonment and a feeling that they are regarded as irrelevant or worthless over metropolitan communities.”

He said “We govern metropolitan Australia really well. For most metropolitan Australians things work; for most rural remote people, things don’t.”

What concerns me is that when the people who want to do away with the party that is fighting for the regions of Australia, retire and hitch up their caravan to drive around our great country, there will be no-one to fuel up their vehicle, serve up their coffee or tend their injuries should they be unfortunate enough to have an accident.

Personally, I believe that if there are going to be any amalgamations – it should be between Labor and Liberal. You couldn’t tell the difference between them at the last Federal election anyway!

I want to assure all regional Australians that I will be fighting tooth and nail to see our great political party reach its 100th birthday (in WA) in 2013.

Peter Fray

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