Julie Bishop goes bananas: off to Lima, Robb in tow, to downplay climate change and promote coal.

credlin and abbott confer

Abbott and Credlin decide to send Robb to keep an eye on Bishop at Lima. Greg Hunt, Environment Minister not considered fit for purpose.

Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop went bananas last week. No, it was not Carmen Miranda bananas nor a Josephine Baker dance routine but a most un-mellow yellow. On learning by letter that Trade Minister, and aspiring banana republican, Andrew Robb would be accompanying her to Lima, Foreign Minister, Bishop flew into a rage. It was, she fumed, just too much monkey business all round, from control-freak Top Banana Peta Credlin, aka ‘P Who Must Be Obeyed’. To say nothing of what it implied in lack of trust, respect and gratitude for her own distinguished service which, everyone agreed, was far and above the best thing going for a government which was on the rocks. Demoted to Robb’s second banana; really it was the last straw!

Bishop boiled with anger and self-righteous indignation. Already the rug had been pulled from under her, when Abbott and Credlin decided it would be a pointedly token visit: the UN Framework Convention Lima Climate Change Conference in Lima actually began 1 December.

But they could not just leave the matter there. It was not enough to just cut down Bishop’s presence, and capacity for mischief, the duumvirate had decided that the Foreign Minister, who could be trusted to host the UN Security Council all by herself, needed a minder on this occasion, and that minder had to be notorious climate sceptic and melancholic Andrew Robb, a man whose seat, the ambitious Credlin is said to be chasing, when he retires soon. Bishop’s pitch was queered.

Abbott had treated her badly. Part of Bishop’s meltdown arose, she maintained, from the insulting, cowardly, high-handed, indirect and abrupt way the decision was communicated to her, or at least those are some of the words she used when she rounded on him in his office, flourishing his ‘disgusting’ page of correspondence.

Bishop had received a terse letter signed Tony Abbott from Peta Credlin’s office last Thursday. Andrew Robb got the same letter, too, only with his name on it, at the same time, although he chose to quickly speak to reporters, claiming that playing duenna to the Foreign Minister in Lima, would not have been his choice of the top ten ways to start his parliamentary break, but he’d do it anyway – thereby clumsily adding insult to injury for both Credlin and Bishop camps.

If he were upset by his indirect and impersonal letter from the PM, it did not show but then Robb is more practised at dealing with pathological behaviour including PM’s advisors and other egotistical, vindictive, paranoid, micro-managing control-freaks and he could use a few more frequent flyer points.

Yet Bishop has a point. Abbott can threaten to shirtfront Putin but struggles with the personal stuff when it comes to consulting his own foreign minister. This frailty is alarming and it is especially rich coming from the man who has been taunting Bill Shorten as weak in parliament recently, a process which has, nonetheless, found some favour with Speaker Bronwyn ‘Kerosene Bath’ Bishop.

Bishop is the most partisan and least competent speaker in the history of the House whose smile has more teeth than a basking shark’s and whose end of term valedictory remarks included a professed fondness for running a disorderly house, a comment which has supporters of democracy and justice on both sides of the house scratching their heads. Her attempt last week, in her closing address, to put a positive gloss on the degeneration of debate since 2010, a lowering and an abuse of parliament which will be Tony Abbott’s single greatest legacy continues the farce that is her attempt to fairly regulate parliamentary debate and is in effect an endorsement of the aggression and petty point-scoring abuse that displaces any reasoned examination, discussion or dispute.

A larger part of Julie Bishop’s banana routine was learning that her PM did not trust her. He’s wise there, and he has unequivocal support both in and out of political life. Bernie Banton’s wife and children, for example, would totally concur, along with all other families of asbestosis sufferers who died while their case for compensation was stalled by Ms Bishop in her former real job as a heartless, ruthless, unscrupulous, corporate lawyer, a profession widely held to provide the requisite training for some many political aspirants.

What Abbott was toey about, no doubt, was that the Princess Mesothelioma would commit us to some real target in reducing carbon emissions. We can’t have that. Abbott has recently gone into spin over how we have to be mindful of our economic prosperity thus bravely contradicting his soon to be sacked failed Treasurer Joe Hockey who told Australian viewers of the G20 circus that economic activity and global warming were unrelated.

Many questions are raised by this final piece of political theatre from the Abbott government, a government quite unlike any other in its determination to deny reality and to deny climate change and should the occasion present itself denying its denials.

Bishop of course issued a statement denying that she was miffed and that the bananas report was totally without foundation. She was delighted to be paired up with Andrew Robb and looked forward to a lambada and a Latin foxtrot with him at one or two of the après-conference functions. So much better on his feet than that clumsy Hunt. A deal taller, too. He knows the hospitality trade inside out. Why they might even hit a late-night alpaca tapas bar, the meat is so good for you, and partake of a few tax-payer funded palate-cleansing Pisco sours together.

Party animal Andrew Robb owns one or two restaurants himself and has shares in some others including Sydney’s Boathouse Palm Beach, showcased on Tourism Australia’s “Restaurant Australia” website, just launched this May, as the “ultimate day trip destination.” So he’ll be keen to pick up tips about tourism, eating and its promotion. Hell, they might even tour the catacombs together after that; in Lima, after all, political corpses still enjoy a type of public life, a richly attractive theme to pursue later over drinks with both Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey and just the type of thing the whole party might well take lively interest in.

Had diplomatic protocols permitted, Bishop could also have thanked bag-man Robb for his heavy lifting on her behalf when he attacked Barack Obama over his concern for the Great Barrier. According to Abbott government lickspittle, The Australian, Robb gave Obama quite a serve.

“Obama’s speech on climate change and its effect on the Great Barrier Reef were unnecessary, misinformed and wrong. He found the content and the timing of the speech were not appropriate. He believed that the American president was not informed enough before talking about Australia‘s achievements in climate change and environmental transformation. Obama had apparently defied the advice of the U.S. embassy on the matter. The embassy reportedly asked him not to place his comments on climate change in such a manner that the Australian government found it disobliging.”

So Robb has done some dirty work for the Foreign Minister, despite sources close to the dirt preferring for the time being to remain unsullied by volunteering names or anything else quite so naff. Robb’s dirty work has nothing, however, on Ms Bishop’s agenda, who having been slighted or sprung – or both – climbing over anything in her way to supplant Tony as top banana, is now working the predictive text on her iPhone feverishly as she plots to get him back and to do Credlin down.

One other type of prediction is in order: the bananas incident will go down in history as Abbott’s biggest slip. He’s got his arch-rival off-side, his back-bench, already baying for Peta Credlin’s blood will be emboldened by finding a rising if somewhat temperamental star in Julie Bishop to hitch their wagons to and if they can’t quite manage insurrection, will whinge and bicker off the record enough to seriously upset his canoe. Mortal damage, moreover, is also likely to be done to the Abbott government’s reputation and credibility on the world stage.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb, who now finds himself travelling to Lima for climate talks and all the alpaca you can eat, will be looking forward to meeting his guru at the conference —Abbot’s favourite charlatan, the apologist for inaction on climate change Bjorn Lomborg who will be speaking at an event sponsored by big coal company Peabody Energy. Robb is, of course, on the record as a big coaler and like his PM happy to consign the world to oblivion in return for the certain expectation of reward from the big polluters.

Sending Robb to Lima, apart from to keep an eye on Julie Bishop’s ambitions has all international observers puzzled. He will be prominent, it is certain: no other nation is sending a trade minister.

Closer to home it puzzles even the best Abbott government experts because it is yet another flip-flop, a disconcerting change of direction.

Why are we suddenly sending Robb an “economics” minister to a “climate” event? The Abbott government refused to talk about climate at the G20 claiming that it was all about economics and it refused to talk about climate at the free trade agreement negotiations with China, claiming that the two were quite separate.

Robb may well be detailed to expound the Abbott government’s position, which is both intellectually and morally bankrupt. Settle down, he will say, Australia believes climate change is no pressing issue. There is no emergency, no case for urgency. There is no rush, indeed before we deploy expensive new technologies such as solar and wind shouldn’t we do some more research? In the meantime let’s sell more coal: our bigger priority is to sell coal to poor countries to alleviate “energy poverty”.

And Julie Bishop will be able to say her piece about nuclear energy and how it is now back on the table as an option for Australia.  In brief, we are all right, Jack. Bugger the rest of you, stop worrying and believing scientists, everything will be OK. Especially if you buy our coal – and our uranium.