The National Party candidate for Lyons in the federal election has admitted she's "conflicted around the coal issue", despite her leader trumpeting the party's "pro-coal" stance.
The Nationals are trying to consolidate a foothold in Tasmania this election, after formerly independent Tasmanian Senator Steve Martin was recruited to the party in May 2018.
With candidates running in the state's chief rural and regional electorates - Bass, Lyons and Braddon - the party hopes to reestablish itself here.
The Nationals' lower house candidate for the seat of Lyons is the Longford-based Deanna Hutchinson. Originally from Central Queensland, Ms Hutchinson has a diverse resume, having worked in industries including mining, defence, health, construction and publishing.
While Nationals leader Michael McCormack said there was "no point deindustrialising Australia with a carbon tax that's going to put businesses out of operation", Ms Hutchinson said a "conversation" needed to be had about getting a "better balance" between renewable energy and coal-fired power.
"I'll put it on the line: I am conflicted around the coal issue," Ms Hutchinson told The Examiner.
"Because I think that as a country we need to have a conversation about how we can get better balance, how we can have both [coal and renewables].
"We need to look at alternative energy sources and renewables - and we're making massive investments in that.
"The damaging conversation is the one that says you can have the environment or jobs."
Mr McCormack agreed with this, saying Tasmania's clean, green image needed to be preserved.
I'll put it on the line: I am conflicted around the coal issue.Lyons Nationals candidate Deanna Hutchinson
"I see something with 'Tasmania' on the packaging and I know that it's clean and fresh and green and we want to continue that," he said.
"But what we don't want to do is see businesses closing and workers put out of employment because we've gone down this pathway of trying to solve global emission problems.
"It doesn't work."
Mr McCormack noted that the Nationals sanctioned MPs crossing the floor on issues important to them.
"I've got to tell you, having [crossed the floor] and having been the only Nat on the other side ... it's a lonely place," he said. "And your colleagues let you know that they're not happy with you."
In 2012, Mr McCormack crossed the floor on water buybacks, an issue which has dominated the news cycle over the past week, with former Water Minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce under intense scrutiny over an $80 million transaction with Eastern Australia Agriculture he oversaw two years ago.
Mr McCormack's 2012 stand on buybacks came as the Gillard Labor government was prosecuting the case for its Murray Darling Basin Plan. The Coalition eventually implemented a 1500 gigalitre cap on water buybacks in 2015.
"When you believe in something strongly enough, you've got to be able to live with yourself going forward," he said.
When the Nationals were still known as the Country Party in the early part of the 20th century, a Tasmanian ascended its ranks to become the party's inaugural leader. His name was William McWilliams.
Mr McCormack, who rose to the Nationals leadership in February 2018 - in the wake of ex-leader Barnaby Joyce's litany of controversies - has eclipsed McWilliams in days served as party leader. As of today, Mr McCormack has been leader, as well as Deputy Prime Minister, for one year and 59 days.
The Nationals have had just four Tasmanian representatives in the Federal Parliament - including Senator Martin - since the party's inception nearly 100 years ago.
And Mr McCormack said this lack of representation had meant that "Tasmania didn't come up too often in our party room".
"Even though, of course, this is a regional base and the sorts of things they do in Tasmania in agriculture and primary industries, it's National Party philosophy," he told The Examiner.
Mr McCormack assured Tasmanians the party wouldn't give up on the state should Senator Martin fail to win re-election (and the senator is, indeed, facing an uphill battle).
"We've got a foothold here, we've got some strong links," Mr McCormack said.
Senator Martin pointed to his record in the parliament since filling former senator Jacqui Lambie's vacancy.
"I've been able to achieve, over the 14 months I've been in the Senate, around 100 projects to the value of now about $150 million," he said.
"I'm happy for anybody to compare that with [the record of] any other senator, past or present."
But Mr McCormack said the party didn't grandstand on its achievements.
"When we achieve those sorts of things [that Senator Martin mentioned], we don't stand up on a pedestal and say, 'Aren't we grand? Shouldn't people be patting us on the back for doing this?'," he said.
"No. We get on to the next thing."
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