Victorian Nationals MP Darren Chester has announced that he will be taking a break from the National Party room because of its increasing “very hard right-wing agenda” and that its leadership was dysfunctional1.
As the leadership of the Nationals has been dysfunctional (as well as inarticulate) for quite a while (Barnaby Joyce was leader from February 2016 to February 2019), it would be interesting to know why Chester took so long to realise this and why the right-wing agenda he has been supporting in government since 2013 has suddenly become unpalatable for him.
Long considered a ‘moderate’ in the party, Chester said his attempts to raise issues about some of the comments made by other MPs fell on deaf ears. One comment was by Queensland LNP senator Matt Canavan about the withdrawal from Afghanistan, who tweeted “Does anyone know whether the Taliban will sign up to net zero”. Another was by Queensland MP George Christensen, who suggested Victoria Police officers should be arrested for using “excessive force” against protesters in Melbourne1. Other than these stupid Queensland LNP politicians, Chester has said another factor to blame for his decision was that he supports stronger action on climate change and that the internal divisions in the National Party make this unlikely. If this was the case, then why did he vote for fracking (unconventional gas mining; i.e. coal seam gas, tight gas and shale gas mining)?2 Why did he vote for politicians to be able to interfere with research funding, giving them the power to veto certain grant applications?3 Why did he vote against the federal government funding the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)?4. Why did he vote against the federal government legislating to protect the Great Barrier Reef?5 Why did he vote to scrap the carbon pricing mechanism?6 Why did he vote against a fast transition away from fossil fuels to renewables?7.. Why did he vote against the government increasing investment in renewable energy?8 Why did he vote against the government treating action on climate change as a matter of urgency?9
Given his voting record, I hope you can excuse me for being cynical about Chester’s motives. The cynic in me suspects that internal polling in his Gippsland electorate makes it clear that he is in danger of losing his seat if still associated with the climate change denying, coal promoting National Party. After all, parts of his Gippsland electorate suffered badly in the Black Summer fires. Of course, it could simply be a warning to the National Party that he would pull the pin permanently if the Nationals don’t sign up to Morrison’s plan to develop a plan to give the appearance of pretending to sign up to zero emissions by 2050 prior to the Glasgow Climate Conference?
Whichever it is, it is all about appearances, and about retaining his seat, by forcing the idiotic Canavan and Christensen to shut up and making the Nationals appear to give a damn about climate change.