Bear with me if I express a purely personal view that is nothing but opinions, no evidence or real argument.
Now I know that many readers are not National Party supporters. I am not saying that you should be. However, I hope that you will bear with me when I say that the Nats decline makes me sad.
As an historian but also someone who campaigns for Northern development, I find the old Country Party a good thing. They had a focus and they delivered. So I find the Nats decline sad.
I also find the betrayal of Northern interests by the ALP sad.
Now my Country Party background means that I spent a fair bit of time fighting against the ALP, but I never doubted the Party's support for the working man, however much I might have complained about their approach. Nor, as I studied history, did I doubt the validity of the things that they fought for. You only have to look at the history of coal mining in the lower Hunter to see what I mean.
When the ALP fought against a yes vote in our new state referendum, I thought that the Party was betraying the interests of the people it claimed to serve in the interests of power, but I could still understand their position because I saw it in a historical context. I had no real idea that those who voted no at the Party's request would fail to gain any of the promised return, that once the referendum had been lost the need to meet local needs could be put aside in the interests of holding power elsewhere.
I have a lot of sympathy for the New England independents. Their rhetoric captures many of the things that I believe in at a purely personal level. Yet they have failed, at least as I see it, to develop any coherent view outside a very narrow range of issues. Certainly, they have failed to develop any coherent view of the North as a whole.
The same thing applies to the Greens. There I read with interest from Chris Parker's Facebook page that the Green's had released an NSW indigenous policy. When I looked, this contained the following elements:
- Amending the Constitution to formally recognise Indigenous Australians
- Ending the Northern Territory intervention and put in place measures that genuinely help people to overcome disadvantage
- Ensuring that Indigenous Australians are partners in the development and implementation of public policies to advance their rights and aspirations.
Do you know, even if every one of these bullet points was delivered, it would not do a damn thing to address the core needs of New England's indigenous peoples.
This is an area that I am quite passionate about. If you look at Reflections on the end of the Housing NSW/AHO Aboriginal mentoring program you will get a little bit of the feeling as to why.
In Sydney outside certain narrow localities, Aboriginal development is an abstract issue because the proportion of the Aboriginal people is so small. This is not true of New England. It's not just that the overall proportion of the Aboriginal population is growing, but that in some areas it is so high (Moree Plains is an example) that local development is inextricably dependant upon Aboriginal development. You cannot have one without the other.
This photo is of an Aboriginal family of an island in the Bellinger near Urunga. I could give many such photos.
Maybe saying that no-one sees it is unfair. Many do. But no-one comes up with solutions because they cannot recognise that solutions must be geographic specific.
My interests are definitely geographically specific. While I agree that we must have advancement for Aborigines in the Kimberly's, I want to know what is happening to the Aborigines in Moree or Kempsey. That is my country.
Did you know, I think that it's true from a simple analysis, that Aborigines in inner Sydney have access to far more services than those in Moree or Tamworth or Kempsey? Why? They are simply closer to the current levers of power. A riot in Redfern creates a Minister for Redfern, while far larger numbers elsewhere are ignored.
There are no easy answers in current structures. Those of us who care have no choice but to dig away, trying to bring change.