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Economou, Nick --- "The regions in ferment? The politics of regional and rural disenchantment" [2001] AltLawJl 21; (2001) 26(2) Alternative Law Journal 69

The Regions in Ferment? The politics of regional and rural disenchantment

Political strain and tension in the bush is continuing to be demonstrated at the ballot box.

Nick Economou[*]

In recent times the Australian political debate has become fixated with the politics of regional and rural Australia. This has been due to a number of significant events. In the middle of 1998, a new political party — Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party — won 11 seats in the Queensland State election, attracting 23% of the primary vote. Significantly, these gains were won in electorates covering regions beyond the Brisbane metropolitan area.[1] One Nation then received nearly 8% of the vote in the national elections held that year. Once again One Nation enjoyed its strongest support in regional and rural areas.[2] Many political commentators have suggested that the rise of One Nation represents a sign that there is something wrong in the Australian body politic,[3] with the expression of voter disillusionment with the political mainstream being greater in regions beyond the metropolitan centres especially in Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia.

The notion that political volatility in regional and rural areas was on the rise has also been conveyed by recent State election contests. Amongst those contests in which governments were defeated (Queensland in 1997, Tasmania in 1998, Victoria in 1999, and Western Australia in 2001) the Victorian result stands out as the most dramatic. This was because the Victorian election resulted in the defeat of the Liberal–National coalition government headed by Jeff Kennett who, prior to this election, had earned wide respect from political commentators for his record of instituting major economic reform without seeming to alienate the community.[4] Yet in the election Kennett was defeated. In analysing the election, Woodward and Costar noted that the result was due to the disproportionate rate at which regional and rural voters had voted for Labor and independent candidates compared with metropolitan voters.[5]

A debate about the social impact on rural and regional constituents of the policies pursued by the governments defeated in these election contests has emerged from such outcomes. This debate has been particularly concerned with the dominance of what is popularly referred to as ‘economic rationalism’ as the guiding principle by which public policy is formulated. The term ‘economic rationalism’ is used to refer to a wide range of approaches to economic planning and policy making that have at their core a normative assumption that ‘the state’ should retreat from economic society.[6] Consequently, governments have sought to reduce public expenditure to provide scope for cuts to income and company tax. They have sold previously government-owned enterprises to private companies or to shareholders. They have tried to enhance investment conditions by reducing the degree to which the state regulates business activities. They have set about reducing government intervention in the economy with policy instruments such as tariffs and ‘organised orderly marketing’ being severely curtailed or completely dismantled.[7]

It has been widely accepted by Australian governments that the nation’s economic effort has had to be directed towards meeting export markets and opening up the economy to international free trade of commodities and capital. The free trade argument is accepted by those primary producers (including farmers) who perceive a potential for greater profits from selling to the vast international market place. Yet the move towards an export-oriented economy has presented a challenge to an agricultural sector that has historically relied heavily on state intervention to guarantee minimum commodity prices, to limit the price of some inputs and to share domestic markets amongst regionally based producers. Thus economic rationalism has created difficulties for many of the nation’s farmers who have traditionally been able to influence governments (mainly through their support for the Liberal and National parties) to intervene in the economy in order to protect their material interests. Meanwhile, the reduction of government employment that has accompanied privatisation and government service rationalisation has also affected rural and regional communities.

This article seeks to establish the basis on which claims that a growing resentment in ‘the bush’ is having its political corollary can be verified. It does this in two ways. First, some interesting electoral data are presented to show the extent to which regional and rural voters have been responsible for demonstrations of opposition to those in politics and government who have been at the forefront of the application of economic rationalism. The data relate to the rate at which rural and regional voters supported the One Nation party in the 1998 federal election. The significance of this vote relies on understanding the populist-right wing One Nation as a challenge to, rather than as a part of, the party system of Australian politics.

The second part of the article discusses the nature of rural politics apropos the traditional voices of the rural sector in to the political debate — specifically, the National party and, to a lesser extent, the Liberal party. It is argued that the non-Labor parties have found it difficult to reconcile their commitment to pursuing market-rationalist and small government policies with the material demands of their traditional rural constituency. It has been this tension that has exacerbated tensions especially within the National party over matters such as how it should respond to the policy debate, how it should approach the issue of being in coalition with the Liberal party, and what it should do about One Nation.

The pressure that the increase in rural disenchantment and the rise of One Nation has placed on the political system has been most acutely felt in the National party. This has been partly due to the nature of the party’s structure and operation where the ordinary members of the party have the opportunity to communicate their feelings to National MPs directly at council meetings of the party. It has also been the result of the party’s historical record on economic and industry policy. The Nationals were once the overseers of extensive state intervention in the agricultural economy. It was a previous generation of National leaders (in the days when the National party was the Country party) that put marketing regulations and subsidies in place to protect the material interests of farmers. It has been this legacy that has been dismantled by the contemporary generation of deregulators and market rationalists. Once an example of stability, the National party — with its internal divisions on how to respond to these changing economic and political circumstances — has come to typify the problems confronting regional and rural Australia.

Regional and rural disenchantment: the electoral evidence

Australian electoral behaviour displays a certain degree of stability when viewed over the long term.[8] With one exception since the Second World War, the major political parties — Labor, Liberal and the Nationals — have won in excess of 80% of the national primary vote for the House of Representatives. The one exception was the 1998 federal election, when the Liberal–National–Labor vote equalled 79.6%. The only time previous to this when the major-party vote fell below the 85% mark was in 1990, when the major beneficiary of the anti-major party swing was the Australian Democrats. In 1998, however, the decline in major party voting was caused by the national support for One Nation. Within this national vote were some interesting regional variations. Victoria and Tasmania were the weakest States for One Nation with only 3.7 and 2.4% of voters voting for the Hanson party respectively.[9] This meant that One Nation’s impact was greatest in New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and especially Queensland.

The sense of regional variation in the One Nation vote is enhanced on closer inspection of divisional returns within each of the States.[10] It is clear that One Nation’s vote was strongest in electorates outside of the central and inner suburban divisions of the capital cities. It is also clear that some of the strongest returns for One Nation were won in quite readily identifiable regional and rural electorates. For all those seats with 10% or more of the workforce employed in agriculture, support for One Nation more often than not (18 seats as against 4) fell within the band of 10 to 15% of the primary primary vote. At the other end of the spectrum the One Nation vote tended to fall within the 0 to 5% band in inner-suburban seats. Interestingly the One Nation vote also reached levels between 5 and 10% with some frequency in seats with less than 10% but more that 1% of population in agricultural work. This reinforces the point that their significant support for the Hanson party could be found in the provincial cities and in outer suburban electorates too.

How significant was the One Nation vote in 1998? Because the party failed to win any representation in the House of Representatives, and won only seat in the Senate, the impact of One Nation might be considered to have been minor. This impression is reinforced by the fact that One Nation’s participation in the electoral contest did not result in the defeat of the coalition government. Despite losing a significant amount of its 1996 vote and a number of seats, Mr Howard’s government was returned. Yet against this is the sense that a very large slice of the Australian community voted for a party that had been the subject of quite fierce critical debate in the period between its formation and the 1998 contest. Holding a very controversial position on race and immigration, One Nation displays the characteristics of an extremist party by Australian standards. Its anti-mainstream characteristics have also been evident in the economic debate where, in response to the economic rationalism of the mainstream parties, One Nation preferred to advocate a much more domestic-oriented economic approach. Indeed, its advocacy of more industry protection to preserve manufacturing jobs and the use of subsidies and assistance to help farmers placed the party as advocates of economic nationalism rather than economic rationalism. Ridiculed for such ideas as increased protection for local industry, low interest rate loans for farmers and the application of a cascading tax, One Nation nevertheless struck a responsive chord with nearly 10% of the Australian electorate.[11]

The electoral data indicate that quite a sizeable portion of this One Nation constituency was to be found in regional and rural Australia, especially in Western Australia and Queensland. Because of this regional dimension to the One Nation vote, and because One Nation set out to exploit rural disenchantment as part of its election campaign, the Hanson party is readily linked with the politics of regional and rural discontent with mainstream politics. As the electoral data suggest, there is some substance to this view although it would be a mistake to think that support for One Nation is confined to rural and regional areas alone. While there is also some support for One Nation in the fringes of the metropolitan centres, this aspect of One Nation’s electoral record tends to be overshadowed by the much more overt link the party likes to make with regional and rural disenchantment. Part of the explanation for this may rest with One Nation’s own strategic approach. It is clear that One Nation has identified rural disenchantment as fertile ground to exploit, and this has been particularly evident in the way the National party — with strong links to the rural community — has been quite divided over how it should respond.

Rural politics under strain: the National party

The National party is widely perceived as the political party representing Australia’s farmers even though the party shares this constituency with the Liberal party. Although it has on occasion sought to be something other than just a ‘farmer’s party’, the National party (formerly known as the Country party) has arguably been at its most effective in national politics when it has concentrated its efforts on matters to do with primary industry, and when it has sought to share executive power with the Liberal party in coalition government. Indeed, the party has enjoyed a history of substantial access to executive power by virtue of its ability to act in coalition with the major urban anti-Labor party of the time. Its ability to win sufficient numbers of seats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate to be able to hold the balance of parliamentary power has allowed the party to negotiate coalitions with the Liberal party.[12]

The National party has also been a relatively stable political party. Since its inception it has won a fairly stable share of the national vote and a constant number of upper- and lower-house seats.[13] Until recent times, the party was also characterised by stable leadership and a functional party organisation. This consistent performance in national elections and in electoral contests in the States in which the National party has had a strong presence (Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria) occurred despite the occasional example of internecine strain especially at the local level.[14] Whatever the reason for the occasional minor upheaval, the National party was able to reflect the views, aspirations and political demands of its core rural and regional constituency — an approach characterised by Woodward as eschewing ideology for pragmatism and seeking to serve regional interests where the party in government would:

… unashamedly [seek] government support to ‘ensure the continued viability of productive and efficient rural industry’, to stabilise primary industry through orderly marketing schemes which encourage participation and representation by primary producers themselves, to encourage family farms and young people to enter and remain in primary industry, and to recognise the need for primary industry for ready access to long-term finance from both private and public institutions.[15]

Woodward also noted that the Nationals were great supporters of the policy of decentralisation particularly where a range of services could be located in regional and rural areas. If this required the intervention of government policy, then the Nationals were quite prepared for such state intervention to occur.

The National party has historically sought to grapple with the issue of how an essentially farmer-oriented party can achieve long-term survival and relevance in a highly urbanised society. Indeed, the nomenclature change to ‘National’ from ‘Country’ was an integral part of its response to this problem. Some federal leaders — most notably John McEwen, Doug Anthony and, in slightly different circumstances, Ian Sinclair — attempted to use policy debates to address the issue of relevance. Of the leaders who sought to use policy as the basis for making the National party relevant to a constituency beyond farming, Ian Sinclair is perhaps the most interesting. Unlike his predecessors, Ian Sinclair was leader of the National party for a period of prolonged opposition during which a number of internal upheavals occurred. Sinclair’s approach to the relevancy question was to seek to boost the party’s credentials as a morally conservative party. Sinclair himself took up the shadow defence portfolio, thereby breaking with a tradition where National leaders would take responsibility for primary industry.[16]

In the meantime, the National party’s traditional farming constituency became increasingly frustrated with what they viewed as their inability to exert influence over policy decisions made by the Hawke Labor government. This experience contrasted starkly with their traditional ability to be very influential over policy during the long years of coalition government. Out of this frustration came two political developments that put strain on the Sinclair leadership. First, a series of farmer protests held in Canberra ostensibly against the Hawke government began to call for the formation of a new rural party.[17] Secondly, the emergence of an interest group, the National Farmers Federation (NFF), as a major actor in the primary industry policy debate also undermined the National party’s claim to being the primary vehicle of farmer politics.[18] The prominence of the NFF in economic policy debates with the Labor government had another important political consequence. In both outlook and personnel, the NFF was much closer to the Liberal party than the Nationals.[19]

A strong commitment to working in coalition with the Liberal party has been one thing that federal National leaders have had in common. While the relationship with the Liberal party has always been subjected to its fair share of tension, arguably the most volatile period of stress coincided with the leadership of Ian Sinclair (1984–1989). It was in the period just prior to the 1987 federal election that the infamous ‘Joh for PM’ campaign emerged from the Queensland division of the national party. The largest and most successful of the National party state divisions, the Queensland Nationals had managed to displace the Liberal party as the predominant anti-Labor party in that state. The almost folk-hero status of Queensland National party premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen amongst Australian conservatives provided some of the impetus behind an attempt by the Queensland Nationals to have the premier transferred in to national politics and on to the prime-ministership. An attack on the federal coalition agreement by the Queensland Nationals was an integral part of this campaign. Ian Sinclair and the Liberal opposition leader of the time, John Howard, resolutely defended the coalition from this attack, but both were to pay a high price with the coalition losing the 1987 federal election and both men eventually losing the leadership of their parties.

The full story behind this bizarre political event is well told elsewhere.[20] The Joh-for-PM campaign was a very important moment, however, because it was the public expression that all was far from well within rural and regional politics in Australia. Previous examples of tensions and spats within the Nationals and between the coalition partners had never had the destructive force of the Joh-for-PM campaign. This very self-destructive campaign from within the Queensland Nationals was soon followed by the collapse of the Queensland National government and its subsequent disgrace following the report of the Fitzgerald Inquiry into maladministration in the state. A decline in the National party’s electoral fortunes followed, including the defeat of Charles Blunt, Ian Sinclair’s replacement as leader, at the hands of voters in his own seat of Richmond in the 1990 federal election.[21]

In its response to these problems the federal National party elevated Tim Fisher to the leadership with a strict brief to return the party’s policy interests back to primary industry matters. Fisher did this, although by the time he and his Liberal coalition colleague John Howard returned to government in 1996, the economic and policy landscape had undergone a major change. Fisher might not have had Joh Bejelke-Petersen to contend with, but the sense that the National party’s core regional and rural constituency was unhappy with the direction of public policy and the performance of the governing non-Labor parties persisted. Indeed, after the 1996 election that returned a coalition government this dissatisfaction gained sufficient momentum to give succour to a newly emerging rival to the Liberal and National parties in ‘the bush’ in the form of One Nation. It also provided impetus for persistent internal strains within the party in which the threat of leadership challenges to Fisher and of maverick behaviour by some National MPs in very marginal seats were recurring unsettling themes.

The rise of One Nation and its electoral impact provides the evidence to suggest that the persistence of strained relations between the National party and its rank-and-file has been something more than the usual power struggles that go on within political parties. The rise of One Nation especially in Queensland has been indicative of a shift in political attitudes particularly in regional and rural areas. One Nation’s populist approach to economic nationalism contrasted with the National party’s commitment to free trade. One Nation provided an opportunity for constituents to give vent to their feelings about the rationalisation of government and corporate services in the regions. After the 1996 election, the National party could not provide such an opportunity for the expression of rural and regional dissent because it was the Nationals who, in coalition government with the Liberal party, were presiding over the application of economic rationalist policies.

The effect of policy

The shift towards a more market-rationalist approach in economic planning and policy-making since the early 1980s has been the catalyst for these latest manifestations of regional and rural political change. The reorientation of the Australian economy towards meeting the demands of export markets and away from a dependency on tariffs and/or subsidies has been a feature of contemporary economic policy. Although planning for a shift towards an export market-oriented and deregulated approach to economic planning predated the event, the election of the Hawke Labor government in 1983 marked an important turning point. In government the Hawke-led Labor party began to put in place a number of policies recommended by various inquiries on industry, capital flow and tariffs that had been convened during the time of the previous Liberal–National coalition government. In so doing, the Hawke government demonstrated that for all the rhetoric generated by the major parties in a bid to differentiate themselves from each other, something of a bipartisan approach had emerged on fundamental issues of economic policy.

These policy decisions posed major challenges for the National party, even though federally it was in opposition at the time. The invigoration of a neo-classical liberal or ‘dry’ wing within the parliamentary Liberal party was one of the consequences of the Hawke government’s assumption of the role of overseer of the practical application of ‘economic rationalism’. This important tendency sought to criticise the Hawke government not so much for what it was doing in economic policy, but rather for failing to go far enough in its reforms. Under the leadership of the ‘dries’, the Liberal party became quite firmly committed to an even more extensive reform agenda that included such controversial items as the deregulation of the labour market, the abolition of tariffs, and the imposition of a broad-based consumption tax.[22]

While the National party had no problem accommodating labour market deregulation, other items on the agenda were problematic, particularly when the Nationals returned to government as the junior partner in a federal coalition. Concerns about the regressive nature of the proposed consumption tax evolved from the fact that some of the National party’s safest federal seats cover districts that also have the lowest levels of income in Australia. Likewise, the prospect of reducing government expenditure by terminating programs and rationalising government services was a source of unease for the representatives of regional and rural seats where there has historically been heavy economic dependence on the public sector. The prospect of winding back services such as hospitals, schools and railway lines was also problematic for regional and rural representatives who had historically asked for the support of voters precisely because they were so adept at winning and defending these sorts of services for regional and rural constituencies.

The deregulation and free-trade argument underpinning economic rationalism was also problematic for regional and rural constituents. Previous coalition governments had left behind an array of policies designed to protect farmers from export price volatility. They had also sought to encourage farmers to stay on the land with subsidies and quite extensive intervention in the market place to guarantee market share and minimum commodity pricing. Such arrangements were precisely the type of market distortions that neo-classical liberal advocates — including the ‘dries’ who were now predominant in the Liberal party — identified as requiring dismantling. Put simply, the embracing of ‘economic rationalism’ by the Labor and Liberal parties had the potential to become a major source of strain between the Liberals and the Nationals.

On its return to government, such strain was contained as leaders from both coalition parties cited the need for cohesion in order to survive. Nowhere was the willingness of the National leadership to defend the coalition more obvious than in leader Tim Fisher’s resolute support of Prime Minister Howard’s policy on gun ownership in the aftermath of the Port Arthur massacre. This support was given often in the face of very bitter opposition from the National party’s core constituency. The major price that National leaders had to pay for this commitment to cohesion and unity, however, was complicity in the application of a rigorous economic reform agenda.[23] These policies certainly have had an effect especially in the country. In their study of regional Victoria’s economy, Birell found that the regions languish behind metropolitan Melbourne in all the key indicators of growth, activity and wealth. So, too, did they find evidence of a decline in the provision especially of health services in the regions.[24]

The Victorian example is interesting for another reason. Between 1992 and 1999 the State was governed by a Liberal–National coalition administration that enjoyed massive majorities in both the upper and lower houses of the State parliament. The Victorian coalition government was able to institute neo-liberal economic policies with few parliamentary impediments. Economic reform was pursued more vigorously in Victoria than elsewhere in Australia and the Kennett approach became something of a model other economic rationalists sought to aspire to. An insight into the impact of the Kennett government’s approach can be ascertained by comparing census data measuring the number of people in each federal electorate employed in the public sector in 1991 and 1996. Public sector employment fell across Australia, but the rate at which it fell in Victoria was much greater than in any other State. This is shown in Table 1 where the national average rate at which census respondents in 1991 stated that they were government employees is compared with the 1996 census, and this figure is compared with the response rate in Victoria. This shows that the average rate of change in government employment in Victorian federal electorates was more than double that of electorates in other States.

Table 1

Rates of government employment by federal

electorate: Victoria and national rates compared

Average % government employed by electorate

1991 census
1996 census

Source: AEC electoral atlas:

As Birrell suggest, the Victorian regions failed to keep pace economically with the growth enjoyed in Melbourne. Regional voters — many of whom up until 1999 had had a solid record of strong support for the coalition parties — took their revenge on the government by electing Labor to power. In a matter of months, the coalition was defeated, its leaders retired from politics and the coalition agreement was terminated. A similar thing happened following the landslide victory of the Beattie government in Queensland where, again, the non-Labor leaders resigned and a coalition agreement was ended. Prior to the Victorian contest, observers had discerned hints especially from the performance of One Nation, that regional voter reaction to the nature and direction of the policy debate was negative. The Victorian result reinforced the notion that regional and rural discontent was indeed running at high levels. The 1999 Victorian election suggested that rural and regional anger at this situation was expressed via electoral behaviour, and the Liberal and National parties — historically the parties preferred by regional and rural voters — were thrown out of government as a result.


The shift in economic policy from interventionism to market rationalism has had a wide range of economic and social consequences but there has emerged a sense in which the regions have suffered the problems associated with this change more than the major capital cities. It is this notion of ‘the bush’ struggling with the problems without reaping sufficient of the rewards accompanying economic change that has acted as a catalyst for political strain and tension. These strains have particularly affected the National party, and have contributed to the rise of One Nation. While the occurrence of internal strains and tensions within the National party is nothing new, the rise of One Nation certainly has been an important new development. As an extremist party by Australian standards, One Nation’s emergence on the political terrain can be read as an expression of voter disillusionment with mainstream politics. This disillusionment has been expressed most strongly in rural and regional areas.

Even in places where One Nation has been weak (such as Victoria) the signs of regional and rural voter discontent with neo-liberalism and the parties that preside over its application to public policy have been made quite clear. Regional and rural Australia is experiencing a degree of political ferment. The fact that there is an urban-rural cleavage in Australian political society is not new — it was this cleavage after all that gave rise to the formation of the Country, later National, party. What is newly emerging from the latest manifestation of this cleavage, however, is the sense of regional and rural dissatisfaction with the parties that have traditionally been the clarions of rural interest in the electoral and parliamentary process. This is creating something of a vacuum in regional and rural politics which at least one newly emerging party has tried very hard to exploit.


[*] Nick Economou teaches politics at Monash University.© 2001 Nick Economou© 2001 Stuart Roth (cartoon)

[1] Davis, Rex and Stimson, Robert, ‘Disillusionment and Disenchantment at the Fringe: Explaining the Geography of the One Nation Party Vote at the Queensland Election’, (1998) 6(3) People and Place 69-82.

[2] For a discussion of the 1998 federal election see Bean, Clive and McAllister, Ian, ‘Voting Behaviour’ in Marian Simms and John Warhurst (eds), Howard’s Agenda, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane 2000 especially p.178; and McAllister, Ian and Bean, Clive, ‘The Electoral Politics of Economic Reform in Australia: The 1998 Election’, 35(3) Australian Journal of Political Science 383–99 at pp.396-7.

[3] See Age, 21 October 1996 and Australian, 17 June 1998.

[4] Shamsullah, Ardel, ‘The Policy of Confidence: Politics in Victoria 1992–1998’ in Costar, Brian and Economou, Nicholas (eds), The Kennett Revolution, UNSW Press, 1999.

[5] Woodward, Dennis and Costar Brian, ‘The Victorian Election of 18 September 1999: Another Case of Electoral Volatility?’ (2000) 35(1) Australian Journal of Political Science 125-134.

[6] See Pusey, Michael, Economic Rationalism in Canberra, Cambridge University Press, 1991; and Capling, Anne, Considine, Mark and Crozier, Michael Australian Politics in the Global Era, Longman Cheshire, 1998.

[7] Hughes, Owen, Australian Politics, third edn, MacMillan, 1988; Emy, Hugh and Hughes, Owen, Australian Politics: Realities in Conflict Macmillan, 1988; Forsyth, P., ‘Achieving Micro Economic Reform’ in Ian Marsh (ed), Governing in the 1990s: An Agenda for the Decade Ceda, 1993.

[8] Aitkin, Don, Stability and Change, second edn, ANU Press, 1982; and Janesch, Dean, Power Politics: Australia’s Party System, Allen and Unwin, 1984.

[9] These are figures for the statewide House of Representatives vote. One Nation won a slightly larger primary vote in the Senate contest in each State, winning 4.1% in Victoria, and 3.7% in Tasmania. See the Australian Electoral Commission Election Statistics 1993, 1996 and 1998, CD Rom, 1999.

[10] See Electoral Data in Australian Electoral Commission, Election 98: National Returns, AGPS, 1998. The 1998 federal election is discussed in McAllister, Ian and Bean, Clive, ‘The Electoral Politics of Economic Reform in Australia: The 1998 Election’, 2000 35(3) Australian Journal of Political Science 383–99.

[11] See especially Kingston, Margot, Off the Rails, Allen and Unwin, 1999 for a close overview of the Hanson campaign in the 1998 federal election.

[12] See Verall, D. and others, ‘Community, Country, Party: Roots of Rural Conservatism’ in Brian Costar and Dennis Woodward (eds), Country to National, Allen and Unwin, 1985.

[13] Woodward, Dennis, ‘The National Party’ in Andrew Parkin, John Summers and Dennis Woodward (eds), Government, Politics, Power and Policy in Australia, fifth edn, Longman Cheshire, 1994 at p.161.

[14] These matters are discussed by Costar, Brian, ‘The national party: revival or extinction?’ in Brian Costar (ed), For Better or Worse: The Federal Coalition, Melbourne University Press, 1994.

[15] Woodward, Dennis, ‘The Federal National Party’, in Brian Costar and Denis Woodward (eds), Country to National, Allen and Unwin, 1985 p.61.

[16] The state of the Nationals at this time is extensively discussed in Coaldrake, Peter, ‘The Nationals: Where to From Here?’, (1987) November Current Affairs Bulletin 12-17.

[17] See National Times, 2-9 August 1985, and The Bulletin, 9 July 1985.

[18] The role of the NFF is discussed in Connors, Tom, ‘The Farm Vote’ in Clive Bean, Marion Simms, Scott Bennett and John Warhurst (eds), The Politics of Retribution, Allen and Unwin, 1997.

[19] Australian Financial Review, 15 May 1987.

[20] See Coaldrake, Peter, ref 15, above, and also Prasser, Scott and Wear, Rae, ‘Non-Labor politics in Queensland: Fusion or Fission?’, (1990) January Current Affairs Bulletin 22-30.

[21] Economou, Nicholas, ‘Living off the Paradox: The Nationals and Electoral Decline’, (1993) July Current Affairs Bulletin, 21-26.

[22] A discussion of these themes can be found in Brett, Judith, ‘Liberal Philosophy from Menzies to Hewson’ in Brian Costar (ed), For Better or Worse: the Federal Coalition, Melbourne University Press, 1994; and Costar, Brian, ‘The Future of the National Party’ in M. Simms (ed), The Paradox of Parties, Allen and Unwin, 1996.

[23] Barrett, G., ‘John Howard — Yesterday’s Economic Manager?’ in Gweneth Singleton (ed), The Howard Government, UNSW Press, 2000.

[24] Birrell, Bob, Dibden, Jacqui and Wainer, Jo, Regional Victoria: Why the Bush is Hurting, Centre for Population and Urban Research paper, Monash University, January 2000.

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