Earlier this week, footage aired of Attorney-General George Brandis speculating that Queensland’s Liberal National Party might demerge. But Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce says this won’t happen.
“It’s not going to happen. You know why? Because the people who make that decision is not George, or myself or anybody else, it’s the membership and the membership would have to decide they want to do it and I haven’t heard any big swathes of members having meetings saying that want to demerge.”
Joyce tells Michelle Grattan the Nationals need to differentiate themselves from the Liberals.
“I think people clearly understand there’s a difference between the National Party and the Liberal Party. They recognise the qualities in both. If there wasn’t a reason to differentiate then you would amalgamate. So I’m very - always have been - parochially National.
"When I first came into politics back in 2005 and we got down to 12 members and senators I think, there was always this ‘oh we should just fold this show up’ and I fought as hard as I could with others to make sure that didn’t happen,” Joyce says.
Acknowledging the threat posed by One Nation, Joyce puts that party’s success into the context of a global wave of right-wing populism.
“In those messages are things that matter to people - are messages that matter, that resonate. People wouldn’t just change [their vote] because they got a giggle. They change because they get a message and go ‘yep, that’s all I needed to know and that’s enough for me to change my vote’. And that’s what’s happening now and we’ve got to compete in that space.”
Joyce also has a reality-check for his colleagues pushing for changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
“There’s a set of people who are more intensely involved in politics and they might be concerned - but if you think I go past the guys working on the road and as I say ‘g'day’ to them and ask them how’s the job going [that] they’d say ‘I really want to talk to you about 18C’ - no they don’t.
"They are interested in the things they can touch. They do not occupy themselves in the deeper philosophical thoughts.
"What we’ve got to be really careful of is once you leave the party room meeting - whether it’s here or whether it’s your branch meeting back in the country - don’t think that’s the issue that’s going to get across to people in the pub on a Friday night.”
Music credit: “What tomorrow brings”, by Ketsa on the Free Music Archive