Barnaby Joyce’s callous comments take the heat off the Morrison and Berejiklian governments' mind-boggling incompetence and negligence, which have exacerbated the fire crisis, writes executive editor Michelle Pini.
BARNABY JOYCE has elicited disbelief from onlookers since he first burst onto the political stage, wearing his signature tight shorts over sandals, bulging gut and bulbous red face suggestive of a few too many beers. Whether it be saying idiotic things, embodying hypocrisy or just continuing to be referred to as the “best retail politician”, Barnaby does not disappoint.
JERRY SPRINGER BARNABY SHOW
Only Jerry Springer, armed with a cast of assorted characters including all of One Nation, Bob Katter, Jacqui Lambie, David Leyonhjelm and George Christensen, could come close to Barnaby’s rating appeal.
You see, it’s not that the Member for New England has achieved, well … anything much, in his 15 odd years in parliament. It’s not that he is actually thought of by anyone outside his (inexplicably) loyal electorate as significant. It is simply that he continues to provide solid entertainment.
Barnaby Joyce is the reality show of Australian politics.
The former Drought Envoy and Deputy Prime Minister (!) knows this, of course. Because while he may be totally ineffectual as a parliamentarian, he is not dumb. Barnaby realises that in order to keep his highly paid meal-ticket, it won’t be by achieving anything substantial, it will be by creating headlines.
This has the dual effect of keeping his otherwise oft-forgotten electorate ever-grateful and Barnaby Joyce front of mind for mainstream Australia — ensuring ongoing paid media appearances and book deals well past his natural use-by date.
Barnaby’s “best retail politician” moniker has also attracted powerful friends and allies – which, like fellow Coalition stalwarts, Julie Bishop and Christopher Pyne – may even lead to a handy post-parliamentary corporate “consulting” position.
Successor in the Deputy PM role, Michael McCormack, though he has certainly given asinine comments a good whirl, can never hope to emulate Joyce’s status as chief buffoon and most expensive waste of parliamentary space.
In recent days, Barnaby has taken a tragic situation of huge national significance and made it all about him. Again.
‘Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce has suggested two people who died in the NSW bushfires "most likely" voted for the Greens as he blamed the minor party for increasing the threat of bushfires.’
As usual, all-class from Joyce. But that comment is more than disgusting and disrespectful, it is a sad indictment on the current state of Australian politics. Barnaby’s repellent reduction of the fire crisis to that of a political scorecard, to be discarded at will, simply epitomises the Morrison Government’s approach to the nation’s safety and the current fire emergency. Where can the political gains be made? That is the only motivating factor behind every Government decision leading up to this disaster and every reaction since.
But best of all, Barnaby’s bizarre antics and convenient timing provide an added gift to the Government: they serve to take the heat off Morrison’s ineptitude. As in this case, where everyone is focusing on Joyce’s callous disregard for the suffering of others, instead of the mind-boggling incompetence of the Morrison and Berejiklian governments.
THE VOTE-WINNING STRATEGY
Long before the recent catastrophic bushfires ignited in NSW and Queensland, the Morrison Government strategists have been hard at work, plotting chief ways in which the Coalition can retain power.
Their agenda is so simplistic, it is possible to miss it entirely: money, plus kudos, equals votes.
Which brings us to how the Federal and NSW Coalition governments have done nothing to help the bushfire crisis. Their ineffectual policies and downright negligence have instead exacerbated the disasters.
This is because climate change policy is an admission that their (predominantly) science-denying cabinets were wrong. This would not carry kudos and therefore would not equal votes.
Emergency services mitigation costs money, so it might derail the lauded Federal budget "surplus", which might mean the Coalition would finally lose its unfounded claim to being the “best economic managers”, which would also lead to no votes.
THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS
Barnaby’s comments, absurd and heartless though they are, have succeeded in taking the focus away from this gross ineptitude, if not negligence, on the part of the coal-loving Morrison Government.
They have also distracted from Morrison’s own glib “thoughts and prayers” response to the fires, in particular. The PM offered these words repeatedly while circumnavigating the countryside for photo ops with his arms around people affected by tragedy.
Scotty took Gladys along for the trip as press conference “minder” — a role which she performed with aplomb, reprimanding anyone who dared ask about climate change with:
“Not today. Honestly, not today!”
This, of course, is all because photo ops with victims of tragedy signify compassion, which can lead to kudos, which leads to votes. Discussing the Government’s internationally ridiculed climate change position, however, equates to scorn, which does not equal votes.
Our country is burning up. While fires sweep our Eastern states, our leaders speak of "thoughts and prayers". But we know the cure. Save the patient. Fire the Government.
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