OUR SAY: Smoking Joe's out of touch comment adds fuel to the fire

FEDERAL government members have done nothing this week to convince rural and regional voters that their needs are being considered in the corridors of power in Canberra.

First came the ridiculous proposal to make jobseekers apply for 40 jobs a month when, as any jobseeker in the bush could have told them, many towns would be fortunate to have half that number advertised.

It should have been a reminder that “one size fits all” policies rarely work in a nation the size of Australia, and nearly always leave country people worse off.

Apparently not, though.

This week voters were treated to Treasurer Joe Hockey’s assertion that increased fuel taxes would not unfairly hurt the poor because, apparently, they either don’t have cars or don’t drive very far if they do.

Mr Hockey says he was relying on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to support his claim, but he would have been better served relying on a little commonsense.

Or perhaps he could have spoken to some of his own regional MPs.

A car is not a luxury item in most country towns and cities that are poorly served by transport.

And real estate tends to fall in price as you move further from the centre of these towns and cities, so it is often the poorest who travel the longest distances.

The raw ABS data may not paint that picture, but anyone living west of the Great Dividing Range knows it’s the truth.

Sydney - home to Joe Hockey, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull, Bronwyn Bishop, Philip Ruddock - is undoubtedly the current government’s conservative power base, but it needs to expand its thinking if it wishes to govern for the whole nation.

And rural and regional MPs - particularly the Nationals - need to speak up more strongly for their constituents, even if a healthy margin means they have little to fear at the ballot box.

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