Many outstanding politicians are remembered for doing something special for their country, or perhaps for a lifetime of sustained effort for the country’s benefit. Barnaby Joyce was named “Australia’s best retail politician” by another politician – one Tony Abbott. Now that endorsement does muddy the waters somewhat, but a reference is a reference.
He has also ‘served’ as Deputy Prime Minister of the country, which in itself is an achievement. It also illustrates the point that our system elevates the leaders of political parties to positions that are sometimes way beyond their capabilities. Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce are two such examples, and it also points to the problem of having a junior coalition partner. The leader of the National Party automatically becomes Deputy PM if the coalition is in power. That is preposterous, but true.
Dodging a bullet
In February 2018 Malcolm Turnbull was scheduled to go to the U.S. and he flagged that Mr Joyce would be acting Prime Minister in his absence. Obviously that was an unacceptable choice, and Barnaby was sent on a week’s leave instead. He was undergoing much inner turmoil at the time, so it was probably for the best. We dodged a bullet there.
Look at the big picture
If we take a long hard look at Barnaby’s career one struggles to find the signature ‘big’ achievement. He does have a singular talent for making outlandish statements, which immediately gathers media attention, and he has made something of a reputation for speaking the ‘unvarnished truth’. This has been gradually whittled away, mainly due to his own efforts, where onlookers or listeners are often left questioning whether he is affected by drink, or perhaps having a psychotic break of sorts.
The radio interview with Patricia Karvelas springs to mind, listen here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbDRbwdr1V0. You could also see his Facebook post late last year, where he told us “I just don’t want the government any more in my life, I am sick of the government being in my life.” He also told us “There’s a higher authority that’s beyond our comprehension – right up there in the sky. And unless we understand that that’s got to be respected, then we’re just fools. We’re going to get nailed.” So he has retained his Christian faith, if not his credibility.
Looking back on his career is interesting. As most of us acknowledge, that one, big moment where he achieved something cannot be found. He has a ‘blooper reel’ of legendary proportions, however. It could be argued that he has been forever oafish, but not particularly harmful. Jenna Price, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, thinks otherwise https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/barnaby-joyces-other-betrayal-20180209-h0vurf.html And if we look back, why are we paying him? What was his electorate thinking? Even excluding his shambolic private life, his contrary position on almost every aspect of Australian life, his appalling waste of public money, his relentless search for relevance, his stalking of his leader, his pronouncements, his seeming lack of accountability. He holds a parliamentary record, of sorts: Crossing the floor, or in other words, deserting his colleagues.
Weighing it all up
He has been called the world’s worst ever Agricultural Minister. He has overseen the Watergate purchase, of illusory floodwaters, for close to double the asking price. He did say that his department made the decisions; he was absent, or distracted? He has been pilloried for moving the pesticides regulator from Canberra to his own electorate, at huge expense and no upside. He has apparently saved Australia from an environmental hazard, by threatening to euthanase Johnny Depp’s small dogs. He completed his term as Special Drought Envoy, where he managed to spend $675,000 and ‘produced’ a report, sent by text messages, which the Prime Minister was too busy to read.
These are just some examples of how genuinely useless he has been, over a number of years. Think of an issue, and he will have taken the renegade position, and as likely as not, later he usually reverses his stance. It is plain that he sees himself as a born leader, and his recent tilt at the leadership of the National Party proves that he is completely lacking in self-awareness. He has recently launched a podcast, called Weatherboard and Iron, with Matt Canavan. Perhaps he sees a career in the media for himself.
On reflection one achievement does stand out. It has received bi-partisan support, it led to an improvement in parliamentary standards, and it has made us all sleep soundly at night. That would be the ‘bonking ban’. I will always thank Barnaby for being the catalyst for that change in our national landscape.
Barnaby goes off, again
February 24: In response to several days of media silence about Barnaby Joyce, he decided that enough was enough. The Australian people were being denied the spectacle of Barnaby going off, so Barnaby did what he does best, he ‘went off’. Watch it here https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=196289058127609
In further developments the people of Tamworth have been asked to re-call him, as he is now seen as a danger to himself, and to the Coalition at large.
The Australian Labor Party are holding a prayer breakfast on Thursday morning, to thank God for Barnaby. No-one has ever made Joel Fitzgibbon look so good before.
Mark Buckley is a Melbourne writer, interested in history and politics. His work can be found at www.askbucko.com