Moving along the ballot paper we now reach the Country Alliance, which at first glance looks a lot like the Nationals, only with more firearms, fishing and firewood, and an emphasis on outdoor activities. My old school in Adelaide would have loved this stuff, I reckon.
Their Senate Group Voting Ticket, however, is not entirely as one might predict. The first two preferences go to the Katter party, but they then move on to the Australian Sex Party, which certainly wasn’t the stereotype I was going with. After that, we have the Democratic Labor Party, which is a weird mix, and the Liberal Democrat, and then they start picking and choosing their favourite people from the Liberals, the ALP and the Nationals, interspersing them with Shooters and Fishers. Helen Kroger of the Liberals gets to go ahead of the Shooters and Fishers Party, followed by Mehmet Tillem from the ALP, before we get a couple more Liberals, the Nationals candidate, and the rest of the ALP. I’m not entirely sure what is so special about either of these candidates, though very brief googling suggests that neither of them are especially popular within their party.
At the very bottom of the ticket, we have the Greens, with the Animal Justice Party directly above them, so I think we can safely say that these people are not vegetarians. Interestingly, Rise Up Australia is also very close to the bottom, although One Nation is at 25-26 – I suspect some of One Nation’s economic policies are quite good for supporting farmers, where as Rise Up Australia doesn’t have much to counteract its anti-Muslim animus.
On to the policies, and I bet you thought I was making the firewood one up, but it really does exist, and basically they want to allow collection of fallen timber for firewood from public land. Right then. I’m not sure this needs a policy, but then, I’m not an outdoorsy sort of person and this is definitely, definitely an outdoorsy sort of party. Indeed they have a whole policy on recreation:
We support the contunuation of traditional outdoor recreational activities
Country Alliance supports the continuation of recreational use of four wheel drive vehicles, rodeos, recreational fishing, recreational shooting and hunting and the opening up of public lands to public access.
That’s their typo, not mine, incidentally.
Other outdoorsy (new favourite word!) policies include recreational motorbike licenses for teenagers, though only for tracks, rather than signposted public roads. They are in favour of expanded fishing opportunities, including in marine parks; they want hunters to be able to hunt more things, in more locations, and with greater penalties for protestors. In fact, they have a whole extra set of policies just for ‘extremists’, which, refreshingly, are not Evil Muslim Terrorists (TM), but those terrible Greenies who engage in illegal protests ‘such as those against industrial and recreational activities, such as the opening of duck season’.
And now we see why the Animal Justice people are not on their Christmas Card List.
The Country Alliance is opposed to creating more national and marine parks because apparently the existing parks are not well-managed. There is a definite feeling that the great outdoors is even greater when you get to shoot at it, chop it down, or fish in it, which is all very well as far as it goes, but seriously – and I’m really not a particularly good environmentalist – seriously, don’t they ever worry that they will run out of both land and things that live on it? I mean, if the government stops creating national parks, odds are that they will be putting housing there instead, and that’s no good for your hunting.
Apparently, they do not:
Since our beginning we have enjoyed wonderful support from firearms owners and many of our candidates have had some form of connection with shooting.
Despite this history (and the regular branding of CA as a shooters party) we have not previously published comprehensive policies on firearms ownership or hunting. Now is the time to do this.
Our policies are supported by international experience and evidence. They express the widespread acceptance by the world’s governments and major conservation organisations of the social, cultural, economic and environmental importance of hunting provides.
“Hunting is an activity that provides significant social, cultural, economic and environmental benefits in different regions of the European Union”. (European Commission)
“The overwhelming majority of the 1,100 IUCN Members have accepted that sustainable hunting has important benefits that substantially aid in the efforts to conserve biodiversity around the world”. (IUCN Barcelona/Budapest, 22 October 2008)
These are particularly important lessons for Australia where other political parties fail to recognise the benefits hunting can bring. It is logical that we should apply the same principles in Australia and be supported by good policy.
They are also keen to double the number of boat ramps in Victoria (another strangely specific policy), and to re-establish waste services in camping grounds in state parks, because really, why should campers have to manage their own waste? Sorry, that was a bit sarcastic, but really, that sounds like a potentially very expensive policy – most of these parks are reasonably remote, which may well be why they stopped providing these services anyway. That, and I imagine loud trucks are disruptive to local wildlife.
As a grand finale, they want:
- A comprehensive study on the economic benefits of boating, fishing, shooting and four wheel driving; and
- A government sponsored program to promote the benefits of boating, fishing, shooting and four wheel driving.
I believe that this is what’s known as reasoning ahead of one’s data, but you can’t fault their enthusiasm.
The other half of the Country Alliance’s policies center around things that are perceived to help farmers, beginning with a separate Department of Agriculture based in Shepparton. Indeed, they want to move several other departments, including Environment and Primary Industries, to regional areas such as Bendigo and Traralgon. I think that’s actually an excellent idea both in terms of job creation in regional Australia and in terms of creating policy where the people most affected by it are likely to be. Actually, I’d like to see more thought put into the idea of where all our public service departments are located – with Melbourne and other cities rapidly expanding beyond their livable capacity, creating new regional centres with jobs, good transport, and other infrastructure might be a very sound move. And speaking of job creation, they want to raise the payroll tax threshold for country businesses, specifically to encourage people to ‘stay in country towns rather than contribute to urban sprawl’.
They want more investment in the dairy industry, and want to keep water in public hands (I’m really going to have to learn more about this, as a lot of political parties feel strongly about it), and, interestingly, they don’t approve of fluoridated water.
The Country Alliance, unsurprisingly, supports better health services for rural Victoria, with scholarships designed to attract doctors to regional areas. Equally, they want to improve educationalfacilities in rural areas, and to identify which communities do not have sufficient service.
They propose a $10,000 stamp duty reduction for the purchase of houses with approved fire refuges. Frankly, I’m amazed that we aren’t doing something along these lines already. We certainly should be.
Sadly, but unsurprisingly, the Country Alliance opposes the carbon tax, viewing it as being something that puts Australian industry and agriculture at a disadvantage without providing any benefit to the environment. I notice that they are not commenting one way or the other on climate change – I’d imagine that it would be difficult to be a farmer and not notice the new weather patterns. They do want to expand and develop renewable energy sources, but feel that right now, coal is the only fully feasible option, and they want to look into clean coal technology. That would be the La Trobe Valley vote, I’m thinking.
And they are against the pokies, and against selling off Australian assets. Fair enough, too.
There are a few more policies, but I’m battling a virus and the Country Alliance, frankly, neither inspires me or riles me to any great degree, so I’ll leave them to others to discover. I think the policies above give a pretty good picture of the shape of the party’s interests – it feels like a slightly old-fashioned sort of party which is doing its best to encourage people to live, work and play in the country. I can certainly see plenty of good things about such an agenda – our cities are getting a bit ridiculous – though I do worry about the environmental impact of all this shooting, fishing, logging, and four wheel driving through our remote areas. As I believe I mentioned above, I’m not a particularly good environmentalist, but it feels to me as though some of these policies, while they do express appreciation of our natural world, also risk using it up. I’d like to leave some for the next generation.