The Nationals wonder why they have been left standing in the starting blocks by the country independents (including the wily Bob Katter who has left himself with the same freedom of action and the same benefits as Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, without incurring the electoral opprobrium of signing up to support the Gillard Government).
One of the agreements wrung from Julia Gillard as the basis for the government she leads being supported by Windsor and Oakeshott is:
New measures to establish a stronger framework for regional policy include...a new dedicated Department of Regional Australia with responsibility for the development of regional policies, oversighting the rollout of initiatives and providing a dedicated source of advice on regional Australia to the Cabinet and other departments across government.
It is instructive to compare that with how the regional function fared under the Howard Government.
When the Coalition came to office in 1996 one of the departments established under the new administrative arrangements was the Department of Transport and Regional Development. In 1998 this was changed to the Department of Transport and Regional Services. Someone had taken issue with the thought that a Coalition Government would have any role in regional development (presumably the market would provide, as it always does) – it would just play some sort of a role in relation to service delivery in the regions (for which there was always precious little money).
The Nationals cheerfully went along with this, and now they wonder why they have been marginalised.