Out in the bush, it’s way past party time

Out in the bush, it’s way past party time, by Caroline Overington.

When Chan’s kids went to boarding school, she returned to the Canberra press gallery. For some years now, she’s led a dual life: some days she’s reporting on politics; other days she’s walking a cow trail down to the farm shed.

This divide — city, country — has long existed but Chan says something fundamental has changed. We are now a nation divided, with city slickers on one side and country folk — “their concerns sidelined, their opinions downgraded” — on the other.

In the cities, Chan finds “global citizens” who feel comfortable pretty much anywhere in the world. They fuss over the kids’ education and worry about how much sugar they’re eating and ­despair over the idea that Donald Trump may get a second term.

In the country, she finds people who have lost patience with politics, and especially with party politicians. They’re quite sure, ­indeed keen, on the idea that Trump will be re-elected.

“The whole of rural society, top to bottom, is pretty much disappointed, or angry at politics,” Chan writes. They no longer trust government and associated institutions like the media.

“They are the neglected class and they represent a constituency up for grabs.”

In Chan’s telling, country folk — not all of them are farmers; they are shelf-stackers, checkout chicks, truck drivers, and cafe workers — see themselves being driven down to a position near the bottom of society, while those at the top — city slickers, and ­especially politicians — are unrecognisable to them. …

They have no lobby group, and they see the “educated elite on both the Left and the Right looking after themselves”. They want to shake up politics, “because a vote is their only chance.”

Pauline Hanson has made a career out of talking to them; Trump built an unexpected presidency on it. …

Their votes are up for grabs, because who represents them?

The Nationals have long been associated with the landed class, and do not properly represent the working class in rural areas. Labor has often done well in the country — it had miners and shearers and others — but is now busy courting the inner city (and regaining ground in the suburbs, where the middle class became Howard battlers, although that’s about to change).

The Liberal Party for a long time couldn’t get west of Balmain, let alone of the dividing range.

hat-tip Stephen Neil