Forgotten farmers, mining and anti-green invective: how the Nationals became a party for coal

In this extract from her Quarterly Essay, Judith Brett says mining has offered the Nationals a way to supplement their declining agricultural base

At the gala dinner in March this year to celebrate the centenary of the Nationals, federal president Larry Anthony boasted that the party played a key role in twice removing Malcolm Turnbull because of his climate change policy.

The Coalition had won the 2019 election against the odds, but not the seat of Richmond on the north coast of New South Wales, which had voted three generations of the Anthony family into parliament, including Larry. The demography of this once predominantly agricultural area has shifted, with sea-changers and alternatives moving into the coastal towns, and the seat has been held by Labor since 2004 with substantial support from the Greens. To survive, the Nationals needed new supporters and they were finding them in the coalminers of central Queensland. Whatever the contribution Bill Shorten’s unpopularity, franking credits or negative gearing may have made to the Coalition winning in 2019, the brutal truth is that Labor lost the election in Queensland and it lost it in large part because of the Queensland ’s successful weaponising of coal.

You can’t reason with them. It’s religion

Related: Australia cannot expect China to import and burn coal it no longer needs | Alex Turnbull

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