Tag Archives: National Party

How they vote says a lot-Barnaby Joyce

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.

On education

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?

Barnaby’s second coming

A short recap

In February 2018 Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was scheduled to go to the U.S., and he flagged that Mr Joyce would be acting Prime Minister in his absence. Unfortunately Mr Joyce was at that time embroiled in two personal crises, the first of which was the very public end of his marriage, caused by his affair with a staff member.

Of course these things do happen, but it is usually put down to a momentary loss of judgement, or at worst an existential panic about getting older. Mr Joyce behaved appallingly throughout, with not one single grace note to relieve the awfulness.

Firstly he humiliated his wife, and presumably his four daughters. No hiding away, to protect his family, from the public, or the press. No attempt to mend the fences he had demolished. Instead he explained that Canberra is a lonely place in the midst of winter. Cold comfort for his existing family, and presumably cold comfort for his new partner. No declarations of irresistible emotion, he even questioned the timing of the pregnancy, idly wondering if he was indeed the baby’s father.

Next came that television interview, for which he was paid $150,000. There was talk that it was against the rules for Parliamentarians to accept remuneration for appearing in the media, but that appeared to be overlooked, in all the mayhem.

Joyce and Ms Campion announced that lawyers were to establish a trust fund for their son, Sebastian, to set aside the $150,000 to pay for future expenses, like school fees. So the fruits of a questionable interview, with a questionable payment, were to be tax free, as well. Not only did he out himself as an unabashed adulterer, and a shameless opportunist, but he was free-loading on the tax system as well. Mr Hockey’s lifters and leaners, indeed.

His other problem was that he had been formally complained about, as a sexual harasser. The woman in question made the complaint anonymously, but the National Party leaked her name, and then in an act of stunning hypocrisy, decided that they could not uphold the allegation, for ‘lack of evidence’. Catherine Marriott travelled to Sydney twice, at her own expense, to lodge the complaint and to provide evidence.

In recent days a West Australian Labor Party MP has described how she was warned about keeping clear of Barnaby Joyce seven years ago “because he had a history of groping women”. Is there any wonder that women who have to deal with him have strong reservations? The complaint from Catherine Marriott remains unresolved.

Obviously in 2018 there was an uncomfortable confluence of events, and within a week Mr Joyce had resigned from the leadership of the National Party, and consequently lost his position as Deputy Prime Minister. He claimed that he left to ‘clear the air’.

Mr Joyce has a history of failure in Government. In 2018 Mr Joyce was found to be a dual New Zealand and Australian citizen. Under S44 of the Australian Constitution, he was obliged to resign from Parliament, and to re-contest his seat. He won the by-election, against low profile candidates, but nevertheless he improved his margin.

It would be reasonable to expect that Mr Joyce might have had the nous to check his eligibility. But no, he had several more struggles to contend with. At around this time he was found to be living, at no expense, in a friend’s apartment in Armidale. He declared the ‘gift’ of free rental, but again he was pilloried by the Press. He responded that he needed the assistance, because he was living on a reduced wage, of over $211,000 per annum. Admittedly he was supporting six children, and two households, but to most Australians he was earning a satisfactory type of wage.

Weighing it all up

He has been called the world’s worst ever Agricultural Minister. Amongst other debacles he ‘oversaw’ the Watergate purchase, of an entitlement to occasional floodwaters, for double the asking price. The seller was a company formerly connected to a cabinet colleague; it is now run by a Liberal Party donor. Mr Joyce denied any responsibility, notwithstanding the inconvenient truth, that he was the responsible Minister.

He has been condemned for moving the pesticides regulator from Canberra to his own electorate, at huge expense, and with no discernable upside. He has apparently saved Australia from an environmental hazard, by threatening to euthanase Johnny Depp’s small dogs. Primarily for this reason, he was presented with the 2015 Froggatt Award. Irony is not dead – the award is for protecting native animals and flora from invasive species.

In 2019 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, Scott Morrison, was too busy to read. David Littleproud wrote to Parliament at the time, stating that no report had been produced.

These are just some examples of how genuinely he has been found wanting in his role as a Parliamentarian, and as a Cabinet Minister. Think of an issue, and he will have likely taken the renegade position, and as likely as not, reversed his stance at some point.

He has now made an unexpected return to the position, to all the pomp and ceremony he is not really fit for, with not a dark thought appearing to cross Mr Morrison’s brow. There are said to be other allegations in the pipeline, especially within various Rural Women’s Associations.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has recently been discovered to be renting out a four-bedroom house with a pool in Tamworth for $625 a week. He failed to declare the rental income to Parliament for months, until contacted by news.com.au. He just struggles with the everyday duties and tasks.

It is plain that he sees himself as a born leader, and his recent successful tilt at the leadership of the National Party, after the ignominy of the past years, has not dampened his ardour for a life at the top. It must be said that if this man can win a leadership ballot, then it is a crook political party, and it is now led by a donkey.