In recent days the Nationals “women problem” has once again been thrust back into the national spotlight, with the Andrew Broad revelations. The party once again has found itself in familiar territory, on the wrong side of the moral high ground that the Nationals often attempt to claim.
While the revelations have been fatal to Broad’s political career, the revelations have also severely embarrassed leader Michael McCormack and further damaged the parties already battered reputation.
With the parallels to the Barnaby Joyce saga, Broad’s contribution to the Nationals’ misfortunes has come at the worst possible time for the Coalition. In the same day that Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced the first projected surplus since the financial crisis, Broad’s “sugar baby” scandal hit the news.
There is, however, an opportunity in this crisis, all be it a small consolation prize for the damage that this most recent scandal has done both the Nationals and the greater Coalition.
Given that Broad will now depart politics at the next election, the Nationals have an opportunity to help address their growing “women problem”, by choosing a strong and outspoken local female candidate to replace Broad, in what is one of the safest Coalition seats in the country.
A strong female Nationals candidate from the bush performing well and resonating with local voters is not without precedent in country Victoria. A perfect example of this type of candidate is Deputy Victorian Nationals leader Steph Ryan who holds the seat of Euroa, Ryan has been a strong voice within the party since she was elected at the age of just 28 back in 2014.
Unlike many Coalition MPs during their recent catastrophic defeat in the Victorian election, Ryan actually managed to increase her share of the two-party preferred vote on the back of her strong performance as Euroa’s local member.
A strong and capable female candidate like Ryan is exactly what Broad’s seat of Mallee needs, to help illustrate that the Nationals are indeed changing their ways, attempting to be more inclusive of accomplished rural women who have long deserved greater representation within the party.
By furthering engagement with the female members of the Nationals, McCormack can begin to mitigate some of the damage the Barnaby Joyce and Andrew Broad sagas have done to the party.
This engagement will not only ensure that the damage to the party is kept to a minimum but encourage a new generation of Nationals women to throw their hat into the ring for preselection, in an attempt to foster an atmosphere of progress and change within the party as a whole.
Ultimately the Nationals have nothing to lose and everything to gain by choosing a strong local female candidate, not only for the electorate of Mallee but other electorates in the run-up to next year’s federal election. Between the polling failures of the Morrison government and their own sex scandals, the time is now right for the Nationals to take the initiative and reinvigorate the party through the greater participation of women.
Illustration: Steph Ryan/stephryan.com.au.
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