What do regional people get out of the Coalition agreement between the Nationals and the Liberal party?
It’s a long standing question without a definitive answer.
Under the Coalition agreement formed in 2013, responsibility for water shifted from the environment portfolio to accompany agriculture under Barnaby Joyce’s Ministry.
In 2015, that agreement reportedly included commitments on regional phone coverage, jobs and stay-at-home parents.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison sat down on Friday with his Deputy PM, Nationals leader Michael McCormack, to nut out a new deal following the departure of Malcolm Turnbull.
A win was claimed with the Nats spruiking Mr Morrison’s commitment to make drought his first priority and to accompany the Nats on a listening tour.
Under the new deal, Mr McCormack also added the Regional Development portfolio to his Ministry and his Deputy Bridget McKenzie added Decentralisation to hers.
But what else was agreed? Recent comments from party heavyweights indicate the Nats may have been keen to get a commitment for public support for coal-fired power.
Or perhaps they secured more funding to deal with climate change? We don’t know.
Mr McCormack said there was no need to make the terms of the deal public, despite the fact he promotes the value of the deal to regional Australia.
“In negotiating the Coalition agreement, the Nationals at all times take the opportunity to assert a better deal for the people we represent in regional Australia such as lowering cost of living pressures or reducing energy costs,” he said.
“The Coalition agreement is between the two leaders and is not a public document. Any demands for the agreement to be released are nothing but political game-playing and mischief aimed at mis-characterising its purpose.”
Mr McCormack is disputing criticism led by Labor Agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon who has contributed his own money to legal challenges to reveal the terms of the agreement.
He said Coalition governments in democracies around the world routinely publish the terms struck between member parties.
“There’s nothing more fundamental to democracy than deals done between parties to form government. The broader community is absolutely entitled to know what the terms of agreement are,” he said.
“What is a amazing is the extent to which the Libs and Nats will go to keep these deals secret.”
Labor’s opponents criticise the influence of unions on the party’s politics. Mr Fitzgibbon claims comparisons of the Coalition agreement with Labor’s relationship with unions is off the mark.
“There are no deals between any Labor party and unions. The union movement is actually part of the Labor party, and we’re proud of that,” he said.