Australia’s population is becoming more centralised and it is a trend that is going to continue.
This shift in population demographic must be coupled with the ongoing conversation about the increasing urban and rural divide in our society.
Commentators endlessly describe the cultural drift in our increasingly centralised society that sees consumers progressively disconnected from their agricultural roots.
This has major ramifications for how regional people and communities are going to be effectively represented in our political systems.
In a now bygone era, where news cycles were slower and the business of government was not open to intense and immediate public scrutiny through mainstream media or vocal social media, our regional politicians only had to influence the relatively small group of other politicians to deliver meaningful outcomes for the bush.
In a modern political context, we now need a political system for regional Australia that can influence the increasingly connected and active metro population en masse.
Regional electorates need representatives that can positively influence the opinion of people not from the bush, rather than politicians who dog whistle in the regional echo chamber.
Regional Australians need to reconsider how we are represented politically, and how the behaviour of our representatives reinforces dangerous paradigms about who and what regional Australians really stand for. The culture or values displayed by the National Party federally genuinely do not reflect what my community truly believes or stands for.
Current social media commentary reflects this dramatically.
Twitter feed in aftermath of sugar baby scandal:
As a “country lad” I find that comment absolutely offensive and a grossly unfair generalisation. Your comment confirms my concern about the damage these men have and are doing to the reputation or rural and regional Australia in the eyes and minds of the rest of the country.— Pete Mailler (@PeteMailler) December 18, 2018
I rest my case. We are real people out here with families and businesses and communities and we care for and respect people and our land. What you see through that lens is not what or who we are.— Pete Mailler (@PeteMailler) December 18, 2018
Some feel the likes of Barnaby Joyce or Pauline Hanson with their antagonistic style have the capacity to cut through, but those politicians, themselves out of touch with the real rural and regional Australia, only reinforce the worst public perceptions about regional Australians and do absolutely nothing to engender support or understanding or change paradigms in the largest section of the community.
The rhetoric and posturing of those parochial hacks is the lens, or filter, through which our urban mates view us all. Those hacks who posture seeking approval for their election are tainting the worlds perceptions of us all.
Regional Australians are hopelessly outnumbered in an increasingly populist political system. Whether we like it or not, we need to bring the wider population closer to us in their understanding and acceptance of the strategic importance of regional prosperity.
As the conversations rage around social licence for agricultural industries we desperately need well informed and articulate representatives in Canberra. Our politicians need to be able to engage a non-agricultural audience in a polite, credible and compelling discourse.
Moreover, the positions articulated by the electeds who purport to represent regional Australia in relation to issues like climate, water, mining in ag lands, CSG and energy are unsustainable and unjustifiable based on the weight of science and evidence.
The conservative discriminatory rhetoric coupled with blatant hypocrisy on social issues is damning and paints regional Australians, who apparently elected these incumbents, as similarly red necked xenophobic twits.
This cuts to a dire credibility issue for regional representation and regional Australians because if you lack credibility in one issue, it effects your credibility in all issues.
If we are to make inroads on critical issues like investment in education, health and infrastructure in the bush, or protect the right to farm generally, we need a new political narrative.
Regional Australia desperately needs to provide a new lens. We need the broader voting public to be able to see us clearly or our political suffering will continue unabated.
We need people to see a progressive competent section of the population working hard to responsibly solve its problems, and able to explain that effort in a way that will engender the support of the broader population.
We must be more discerning about how we are represented.
We need to be prepared to change how we vote and support credible and progressive political alternatives.
- Peter Mailler is a third generation livestock and grain farmer from northern NSW. He holds a bachelor's degree in Agricultural Science and founded the Country Minded political party.