Bridget McKenzie is a cabinet minister and Nationals leader in the Senate. But her seniority hasn’t inhibited her being one of her party’s most outspoken advocates demanding protections for the regions before it signs up to the target of net zero emissions by 2050.
In this podcast, recorded two days before the Nationals’ meeting to consider the results of Barnaby Joyce’s negotiations with Scott Morrison for a deal, McKenzie makes clear her view the Nationals must have a loud and distinct voice for the people they represent, not just on this issue but generally.
“When we run our own race, that’s what people like about the National party,” she says.
She’s blunt about the distinctions between the Nationals and the rural Liberals, which she says go to philosophy and ethos. Like the rural Liberals, the Nationals believe in free trade and markets “but we also don’t think that the market will be simultaneously a determinant of a fair and just society.”
“I think the Libs, you know, they maybe subscribe to Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations as the only tome he ever wrote. Whereas I think we would say the reason you have Wealth of Nations from Adam Smith is because of his [The Theory Of Moral Sentiments] – that the purpose of the market is actually to drive a fair and just society”.
Speculation over the years has suggested McKenzie hoped to move to the lower house but she insists “I have never had a desire to be in the House of Representatives. I adore the Senate.”
Reflecting on the sports rorts affair, which saw her forced to the backbench, she says “I learnt a lot.
"I learnt how brutal and ruthless politics can be. I learnt that truth and fact can be incredibly distorted. I learnt […] how important ministerial discretion actually is in a democracy.
"I learnt in a very real way the cowardice and cruelty of keyboard warriors through social media. And I also […] was reminded how much of a difference you actually can make from the backbench.”