I WAS wondering the other day how long a city boy needs to understand what it takes to be a horny-handed son of the soil.
When I was growing up on the northern beaches of Sydney the only thing I knew about the bush was I had relatives up near Kempsey who grew bananas on the side of a mountain.
As I got older I imagined all farmers as being like those well-groomed men and women you saw at the Royal Easter Show, who you believed all owned properties the size of Tasmania, had kids who went to GPS schools and that then the boys went on to play for the Wallabies and the girls married wealthy pastoralists.
And, of course, they never paid taxes because they had lots of tax breaks and they all drove Mercedes vehicles.
And they were never happy — it either rained too much or not at all.
I can remember in my younger days hating the Country Party.
They truly seemed to me to be the tail wagging the dog, determining Coalition policy and deciding who would be prime minister; achieved by being the leader of the Liberal Party but still needing the Country Party’s seal of approval.
But now I wish we could reincarnate the feisty John “Black Jack” McEwen, the leader of the Country Party who was born in Chiltern and who at one time was the member for Indi.
He told the Liberals he wouldn’t accept Billy McMahon as leader and it is that sort of strong-arm mentality we so desperately need in the bush so we can get a bit more respect from the Liberals.
Over the past six or so years I have gained a better understanding of how farmers live on a knife-edge.
And how city politicians have no appreciation of life on the farm and care even less.
We know most Labor pollies living in Sydney would have no idea where the Blue Mountains are, but the Coalition appears to be not much better.
Agricultural bodies are now totally frustrated by the lack of action from either party.
On Thursday the Victorian Farmers Federation put out a blunt media release: “End the rhetoric and tell us what you’re going to do for farmers”.
The document set out specific questions it wanted the major parties to answer in relation to agricultural policy, local government funding, research and development, drought support, food labelling, foreign investment and red tape.
That such an organisation should have to send out that sort of release a couple of weeks before an election is criminal.
City politicians love telling us Australia is going to be the food bowl of the world.
But they never tell us how that is going to happen.
I’m damned sure the good ol‘ boys that head up the National Party aren’t going to be able to tell us — they’re too busy awaiting instructions from the Liberals.
Warren Truss always looks like he gives “wet fish” handshake while John Cobb reminds you of someone playing the part of a Hayseed.
But of late, Barnaby Joyce takes the cake, supporting the Coalition’s carbon emissions reduction policy, which most farmers hate, and then a Liberal parliamentarian’s campaign in Indi, a part of the world where there is considerable tension between the two parties.
Not to mention the brawl that is going on in the federal seat of Mallee between the two parties.
Then again, Barnaby was seen campaigning in the electorate of New England in NSW, which he hopes to represent after the next election, wearing a Queensland State of Origin jersey; which probably tells you something about the man.
Somehow I think it might be time for the blokes to hop into the back seat of the truck and let some of the impressive women in the National Party steer it in the right direction.
Because it’s been going in reverse for long enough.