So you’re an ambitious wannabe politician with dreams of sitting on the frontbench? Then you’d better get elected to a city seat and not a rural one, an analysis by Bond University students and Crikey has found.
The analysis of the federal House of Representatives found that as of February, just 21% of rural and regional MPs had a ministerial or shadow ministerial role, compared to 35% of city MPs.
As electorates are based on population, 60% of MPs represent city voters, with the remaining 40% from rural (27%) and provincial (13%) areas. However, the low numbers of regional and rural frontbenchers remains statistically significant, even accounting for the difference in population.
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Before Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s most recent cabinet reshuffle, 82% of rural and regional MPs were backbenchers, compared with 61% of city MPs.
Click through for interactive infographic on our website
Independent MP for the regional area of Lyne Robert Oakeshott says the government fails to understand the issues faced in rural and regional Australia.
“The highly urbanised south-east corner of Australia controls the political agenda,” Oakeshott told Crikey. “What absolutely annoys people, and drives people out of industries, is policies like compliance and paperwork rules that have no regional/rural perspective at all, and quite often, show no consultation, nor any understanding of the need for simplicity and flexibility.”
A spokesman for Nationals Leader Warren Truss says the Gillard government has treated regional people with contempt and is not directing enough funding their way. But the Coalition and Labor both have a paucity of rural and regional MPs in frontbench positions.
Professor of politics Clement MacIntyre from The University of Adelaide acknowledges the frustrations of the regional and rural electorate, but says it’s a numbers game. “Most rural voters consider themselves left out,” he said. “Politics is about power based on numbers, and the numbers are in the city.”