The recent sale of Cubbie station in southern Queensland has highlighted the core ideological differences between the National party and their Liberal allies.
This issue has raised the importance of the Nationals' need to stand on principle and re-affirm an independent identity outside of the Coalition.
Concerns were raised by Nationals senate leader Barnaby Joyce who questioned Treasurer Wayne Swan's approved sale of Cubbie Station in southern Queensland to Chinese investors. Joyce argued that the sale was not in the national interest and should be stopped.
'We have just sold, by reason of Mr Swan, up to 13 per cent of Australia's cotton crop and the biggest water licence in our country,' Joyce said. )
Nationals leader Warren Truss accused Labor of being inconsistent and making it difficult for foreigners to buy a house in Australia, but relatively easy to buy the biggest irrigation farm in the country.
The new owners of Cubbie Station will not only own 93,000ha of property, they will acquire water entitlements of about 140 gigalitres from the Murray-Darling basin with no requirement to sell any water to the commonwealth under the Murray-Darling basin buyback scheme.
In an article from the Australian in 2009, the writer argues that the coalition arrangement has not favoured the National party; in fact it has seen them lose parliamentary numbers through restrictions on contesting certain electorates. The Nationals time in the Howard Government also saw the party forced to betray their core constituency on issues such as gun control, wheat exports and the sale of Telstra.
Elements of the Nationals have sought to remove the unconditional rubber stamping of support for Liberal governments. This was seen in South Australia with Nationals MP Karlene Maywald who formed an agreement with the ALP and accepted a cabinet position as part of the Rann Labor government.
The WA Nationals also went to the 2010 election promising to consider working with either party in a balance of power scenario. Another WA National, federal MP Tony Crook stands as an independent voice from the coalition in the federal parliament.
Barnaby Joyce has also presented himself as a leader who has been unflinching in standing as an outsider to the Coalition. In September 2008, Joyce stated that his party in the upper house would no longer vote as a block with the Liberals and may help the Rudd government pass legislation.
With the Labor party in damage control across the country, now is the perfect time for the National party to break with their coalition counterparts and rebuild their support base. Specifically it is worth looking at states such as Queensland which has recently seen rural supporters and MP's defect to Katter's Australia Party.
Queenslandand New South Wales are two states which could change the political landscape. A de-merger from the LNP would see the Nationals reclaim at least 13 seats which are currently held by former Nationals serving in the Incumbent LNP government under Campbell Newman.
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