Emperor’s New Clothes

Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party Member for Orange, Philip Donato MP.
Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party Member for Orange, Philip Donato MP.

The Wagga-Wagga by election seems to be the impetus behind many of the National-Liberal Government’s actions of late, serving as a stark reminder that the people of the country are paying attention and will do whatever it takes to ensure our voices are no longer ignored.

I spoke about this very issue on Tuesday on the panel of ABC’s ‘Matter of Fact’, with Stan Grant.

Rural Australians are quite simply fed up.

We need authenticity and representation, not politicians who choose to stay silent on important issues in order to keep their party happy.

Only by shifting away from the National-Liberal Government and choosing representatives who truly represent our community, rather than “toe the party line”, have regional NSW been able to get results.

You may recall that I called on the National Liberal Government to introduce freight subsidies for our struggling farmers, who have been enduring the worst drought this century.

This was what farmers wanted and needed; on my part it was simply a case of listening, then lobbying for their best interests in parliament.

Initially, the government stated they would not introduce subsidies since they would “distort the market”, but thankfully in the face of continued pressure and rising unpopularity, they back flipped.

I’ve urged the government to consider the interests of our electorate, and they’ve acted under this pressure.

However, it’s clear their actions are consistently insufficient and based only on their own interests.

In parliament, after I made public a leaked secret document which showed the Government had overcharged farmers by more than $30 million over the past 20 years for concessional vehicle registration, once again pressure from myself as well as their crumbling reputation led them to finally respond – although not sufficiently.

Nationals’ leader John Barilaro was backed into a corner, compelling him to announce his Government will payback farmers for only three years out of the 20 years of registration fees they were overcharged, plus a token gesture of free rego for the next two years.

Sadly, it is not surprising that they’re using legislation as an excuse to short-change our drought affected farmers.  

Given that the Government knew about these farmers’ entitlements for at least six months, as shown in the leaked document, I have to wonder if they were ever going to come clean and admit to this supposed “oversight”.

The document which has now been tabled, evidenced two things: that the farmers weren’t receiving what they were entitled to; and that the Government knew about this, and sat on their hands for over six months – until I brought the issue up in parliament.

The government is continuously on the back-foot, making decisions that aren’t in the interests of voters only to backflip last moment in a desperate attempt not to lose voters they’ve already lost.

In the face of all this, it was interesting (if not comical) to see the Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Deputy John Barilaro recently decide that the appropriate response to their worsening reputation is to urge government politicians to dress differently.

“Blokes, get rid of our ties. Women, start wearing jeans,” Barilaro told The Daily Telegraph. 

“That might be the wrong thing to say but I’m saying ‘start connecting to real people’.

“We’re standing with our $600 – $700 suits on and our shirts pressed and our ties in a perfect knot and we are standing there saying we understand.”

Does he really think we won’t see past this?

You can’t fake integrity by throwing on a pair of jeans.

I’ll continue to hold the Government accountable to the community they claim to represent.

Phil Donato, Member for Orange