Some LNP coalition members want to close down the “They Vote For You” website, because they feel it shines a light on how they vote on individual matters of policy. They appear to misunderstand the very nature of parliamentary democracy, which is no longer conducted in smoke-filled rooms, but in full public view. How they vote is thus in the public domain, and if they are ashamed of how they vote, they should change their position, or resign.
I live in the part of Australia described as “rural and regional”, so Mr Joyce, as the responsible minister, and an avowed champion of the regions, represents my interests. I am sure he thinks so. My house is coincidentally made of weatherboard and iron, which is the title of a book Mr Joyce once wrote. I am sure it can be obtained very cheaply these days, although his struggles with the spoken language would suggest his writing would be similarly ‘all over the shop’. I read a lot, but I admit I could not bring myself to sample his writing style.
His voting record is fairly consistent, and it could be inferred that he votes with his ‘heart, rather than his head’. But let us proceed to some of those votes.
On reducing inequality?
He strongly supports tightening the screws on welfare recipients. He voted to drug-test them, to pay their entitlements into a cashless debit card, and to limit the availability of payments to them. Clearly he believes that they cannot be trusted with money.
While many of his constituents in the regions rely on Social Security to live, he did vote for increasing the price of subsidised medicines, tighter means testing of family payments, and oddly, he voted for increasing parliamentary entitlements for current MPs and Senators.
He also voted against increasing consumer protections, against removing children from immigration detention, against increasing federal support for childcare, against closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. He is definitely not a “leveller”.
He represents New England. Perhaps he lives in the ritzier part of the electorate, which might explain his disconnect between how the majority of his constituents live, and their needs, and his own. He received six months free accommodation after his marriage breakdown, so he is not averse to a freebie or two. We just have to trust the donor was not paying for access.
His position on education seems to be about making it hard for the disadvantaged to get into university, because he voted to deregulate undergraduate university fees, and to increase indexing on HECS/HELP debts. He also voted against increasing funding for university education.
He supports charging postgraduate research students fees, as well as political interference in funding research. He voted to increase fees for humanities degrees. He did support a national school chaplaincy program, though.
On marriage equality
He voted for a plebiscite. He also voted to support civil celebrants’ right to refuse to marry same-sex couples. He voted against equal treatment for all couples, and against same-sex marriage equality. He could be credibly described as not being in favour of same-sex relationships.
On science & the environment
Mr Joyce is the leader of the National Party, which is the party for farmers and agriculture. His voting record on protecting the environment is spectacularly negative.
Here is a list of the policies he has voted AGAINST:
- Government action on animal & plant extinctions
- increasing investment in renewable energy
- increasing protection of Aboriginal heritage sites
- local community consultation on infrastructure projects
- protecting threatened forest and bushland habitats
- a carbon price
- a fast transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy
- a minerals resource rent tax
- increasing fishing restrictions
- increasing protection of Australia’s fresh water
- maintaining or increasing CSIRO funding
- protecting the Great Barrier Reef
- restricting foreign ownership
- the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme
- treating government action on climate change as urgent
- ending illegal logging
This short retelling of Barnaby Joyce’s parliamentary votes is illuminating, and depressing. While strictly factual, it shows a disturbing pattern. His character has received much criticism over the years, exacerbated by his seeming shamelessness, and a singular lack of contrition. If we were to place him on a sort of political spectrum, he seems to embody eighteenth century social libertarianism, wilful blindness, proud anti-intellectualism, disregard for the poor, and a pumped up sense of achievement.
His attitudes expressly make it hard for his constituents to achieve social or economic mobility, and show an insensitivity to the needs of those less fortunate than himself, a complete disconnect between his role and the responsibilities inherent in it, and a drunken sailor’s lack of care toward the environment. For example, in 2017 he floated a plan to log old growth forests in Victoria, because of a couple of reported sightings of Leadbeater’s possum. Mr Joyce decided that it no longer needed to be protected from extinction.
He wears a floppy hat, and talks about shooting his cattle to stop them emitting methane, as if that makes him a farmer. He denigrates the latte sippers in the cities, accusing them of knowing nothing about the bush, but he has no concept of the duty to protect and nurture the land, as practised first by the Aborigines, and more recently by many of our farmers. He treats our natural environment as if it is a car-park, and our waterways as if they are solely for the use of multi-national cotton farmers.
He has been dubbed the Minister for Mining, and his record shows a total disregard for the future of life on earth, which borders on the sociopathic. He really appears to disrespect us all, and to treat the office of Deputy Prime Minister as a personal trinket.
As he said in his maiden speech in the House of Representatives, “Romans understood that political stability came from a public that was fed and, on a future stage, the British borrowed from this lesson and China is living it in a vastly more sanitised and politically correct form today. The basic rule remains the same; look after your own.”
Sadly, he appears to be conflicted as to who constitutes ‘his own’. Is it the people of Australia, or Gina Rinehart?