TWO of Australia’s most tenacious politicians have been celebrated for serving 10 years in federal politics and flying the flag for rural and agricultural issues.
NSW Nationals Senator Fiona Nash and New England MP Barnaby Joyce were acknowledged for a decade of political representation during a special dinner held by the party in Sydney at the weekend.
Federal Nationals Leader Warren Truss spoke at the event and told Fairfax Media he believed Senator Nash and Mr Joyce both had plenty more to offer representing the views of rural Australians in federal parliament in years to come.
Mr Truss said the two national party members each had unique qualities despite entering parliament on the same day.
“They’ve both given 10 years of excellent service – remarkable service – on behalf of people in rural and regional Australia and our farmers and they’ve got a lot more to give yet,” he said.
“They both have 10 years or more of good service to come and therefore they’ll continue to make a great contribution to our nation.
“I’m sure both Fiona and Barnaby will continue to fill a leading role for the Nationals in years ahead.”
David Gillespie MP, Kay Hull AM, Sarah Mitchell MLC and Alan Hay at the celebration dinner. Click on the image to see a gallery of photos from the event..
Mr Joyce first entered parliament in July 2005 at age 38 as a Queensland Senator and crossed the floor on about 20 occasions to earn a nationwide reputation as a political maverick.
However, the one-time accountant successfully moved into the Lower House at the last federal election and was subsequently appointed Federal Agriculture Minister shortly after, on September 18, 2013.
Mr Truss said he had watched his political colleague mature over the past 10 years.
“We all grow from our experiences in life and certainly Barnaby Joyce has moved his position over time away from being somebody, when he first came into parliament, who looked critically at everything and came to a view,” he said.
“He was always prepared to stand up for his opinions and constituents and that sometimes meant crossing the floor, which was also a time when we had the numbers in the Senate and that vote was therefore critical.”
Mr Truss said Senator Nash had also been prepared to cross the floor when she felt it was necessary.
“They’ve both been great champions of people who live outside of the capital cities,” he said.
“And they’re still working, which at the moment is from the seat of government, to try and deliver things for regional Australia.
“It has been good to work with Barnaby Joyce now in the cabinet, on Development of the Agricultural White Paper, the Northern Development White Paper initiative and on dams.”
Senator Nash also joined the Senate in July 2005, at age 40, and was appointed Assistant Health Minister in the Abbott government after the 2013 election.
Prior to entering the Senate she worked as a staffer for former National Party federal ministers Mark Vaile and Larry Anthony.
In 2008, Senator Nash was appointed Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Water Resources and Conservation in Opposition but resigned after a disagreement with then Coalition leader Malcolm Turnbull.
She subsequently crossed the floor to vote against up-front tax breaks for carbon sinks to back the views of her rural constituents.
In more recent times, Senator Nash and Mr Joyce have used their political powers to oppose the proposed $3.4 billion take-over bid for GrainCorp by US agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland due to concerns about competition impacts on grain farmers; in particular increased costs of access to port facilities.
Senator Nash warned that having a virtual monopoly on grain storage, handling and logistics in eastern Australia would be detrimental to growers’ interests and was against the national interest.
The takeover of Australia’s largest publicly listed agribusiness was eventually rejected by Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey in a shock decision, shortly after the change of government in 2013.