Our wealth is built on the endeavours and resources of neglected ground-level Australia I am so proud of the Nationals. We are fighters. We are battlers. And, yes, sometimes a blue is a little scrappy.
We have to beat our drum louder because we have the constant challenge of being heard over the din of the inner-city offices that dominate debate in Australia.
Inner-city, high-rise Australia doesn’t need an amplifier. The ABC has nine in 10 of its staff in high-rise Australia, more than 80 per cent of senators have their offices in high-rise Australia and almost all of our big companies are headquartered in high-rise Australia.
In our communities, the only way you will get a view of the town is to climb up a mountain. We are connected to the earth, to the ground, in ground-level Australia. From the top of ground-level Australia you will see the “vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended”.
To get more than a “stingy ray of sunlight” in high-rise Australia, you push a button that magically lifts you, in a temperature-controlled box, without raising a sweat. The world looks and feels different from the top of high-rise Australia.
Here in Perth, when you get to the top of those buildings, you will see names such as BHP, Rio Tinto and Woodside. The steel rope that whisks you to the heavens is made from the iron ore and coal of ground-level Australia. The wealth that pays for it all is generated in ground-level Australia.
In high-rise Australia, the only black-throated finches you will find are on the virtual gumtree. In ground-level Australia, you will find them in actual gum trees.
In high-rise Australia, a nine-score marbled wagyu turns up on a plate by request. In ground-level Australia, you hear and smell the rattling of the trucks and the lowing of the cattle, where the slaughtering occurs around the corner from the pub with the $10 steak with chips or salad.
In high-rise Australia, delivering a baby requires a rushed car trip to a hospital. In some parts of ground-level Australia, a new mum has to leave her home weeks beforehand to travel hours to the closest maternity ward.
High-rise Australia is starting to become accustomed to the high power prices that result from shutting coal-fired power stations. In north Queensland, we have paid higher power prices forever because there are no coal-fired power stations.
I say none of this to be anti-Brisbane or anti-Sydney or anti-Melbourne. I grew up in Brisbane and it is a great place, but I now live in central Queensland.
Truth be told, we are sometimes jealous of high-rise Australia. We would like to grow and develop, to have more services, to have more shops, to have more events, and not to suffer the ups and downs that recur when your economies are not as diverse.
So we get frustrated when those in high-rise Australia, who have benefited from the amazing development of our nation, want to stop the same type of progress in parts of the country that they will never visit, and much less understand.
In high-rise Australia, people are campaigning behind stop signs. They say “Stop Adani”, but they are a broader symbol of the hypocritical, high-rise Australia political approach. Stop dams, stop live exports, stop fishing, stop shooting, stop living, but don’t stop flying to Aspen for a white Christmas holiday.
In the Nationals, we reflect a different traffic symbol, a green light. We want a green light so Adani can create thousands of jobs. We want a green light for dams so we can build a new food bowl in north Queensland. We want a green light to build tourism attractions so that more people can experience our beautiful natural assets. If the stop-sign approach to politics wins, it will do great harm to our nation’s strength. We have built one of the most prosperous and strongest nations in the world on the back of using our natural resources. Our agriculture and mining exports make up 80 per cent of our merchandise exports.
Brisbane and Perth are the biggest mining towns in the country. More people owe their jobs to the mining industry there than any country town.
Just as tensions in our region rise, in the South China Sea and Kashmir, there are tensions in Australia. Groups of Australians leading comfortable lives want to make our nation poorer.
The steel that makes high-rise Australia is forged in a violent and heat-searing process. Iron has to be smashed to remove impurities before it becomes steel. Likewise, it has been a challenging couple of weeks for the Liberal-National Coalition, but we always come back stronger through a forging process.
The Nationals remember that the ultimate aim is not to win elections, but to improve the lives of people who call ground-level Australia home. The Nationals will continue the battle to forge an Australia that is stronger, more prosperous and where wealth is more evenly distributed.
Matt Canavan has been a Nationals senator for Queensland since 2013.