“It’s not about me. It’s about the Weatherboard Nine”, Barnaby riffs. He’s working up to standing down. It’s the best thing he’s done in politics but it’s not done well. Not about me…invokes the little people in whose name monstrosities are committed in populist identity politics. It’s a suitably tacky grand finale to Barnaby-Dada!, our current Canberra soap opera, whose title nods to surrealism while paying tribute to the blessed gift of paternity.
Some say Barnaby-Dada! sucks all oxygen out of our national conversation but it’s a rewarding show. We are miraculously distracted from the national agenda of how best to give the Coalition’s rich pals tax cuts at our expense, or how incredibly well-protected we are from ISIS Jihadists, who almost blew an Etihad jumbo right out of the sky but for our fabulous mincer bomb Mossad intelligence. And Dutto’s jihad on Melbourne’s African gangs.
Yet Barnaby-Dada! and its side-splitting sequel Mal bans bonking the boss offers more than entertaining diversion; a wretched Turnbull government, for example, may be put out of its misery by Barnaby’s big dummy-spit Friday.
It may be just the end of the beginning of Barnaby Busted our next enthralling episode featuring Barnaby in his role as The Red Octopus, as women call the man with the roving hands but the beginning of the end for Turnbull.
There’s a lot to be learned, for starters, about the man, his mob and our politics from the manner of his going.
Flash as a rat with a gold tooth, all togged up in a shiny new navy suit; trouser legs ruched up untidily over stockman’s boot-tops and a cattleman’s hat, always a size too big, Nationals’ love-rat, Barnaby, Thomas, Gerald Joyce, calls a 2:00 PM – put the trash out- presser. He’s stepping down as deputy and party leader.
But only to protect others. Barnaby has done nothing wrong: “Over the last half a month, there has been a litany, litany of allegations. I don’t believe any of them have been sustained. A litany of allegations,” he repeats in a mea non culpa rib-tickler that follows his earlier number I did not partner that woman ( it’s a bad joke, Joyce).
The latest allegation, is, in fact, a formal complaint of sexual harassment. Catherine Marriott whom The Australian describes as a respected leader in the agricultural sector and a former West Australian Rural Woman of the Year, says she wants Joyce held to account. So she tells his party’s federal executive. Joyce wants to call in the police.
“I requested that a formal and confidential investigation into this incident be undertaken by the National party to ensure there is accountability in relation to the incident I raise, and to prevent this type of inappropriate behaviour towards women in the future,” Marriot tells The Oz which reveals her identity, against her wishes, Saturday.
Marriott is determined that the Nationals follow her complaint through to its conclusion, her lawyer, Emma Salerno, says yesterday. Joyce, who insists he’s the victim in this whole marriage breakdown thing, asks his party
“… for the right of that person who’s made the allegation, and I’ve asked for my right to defence, that that be referred to police.” In the meantime he’s publicly called the allegations, “spurious and defamatory”, just in case his party or any other authority need a little gratuitous bush-lawyer advice to guide their independent adjudication.
ABC Insiders scribes nod wisely, Sunday. “She tried to do it the right way,” they agree. In 2018, the woman should not go to the police but keep her serious allegation of sexual harassment quiet; tip-toe to the offender’s party boss? What have we come to? Bridget McKenzie denies that the Nationals leaker Marriot’s name to The Australian. “Who else would have done it?”, panel members ask. They get that bit right. Barnaby plays victim.
It’s all a witch-hunt but he cannot stand by and let the innocent suffer. Sadly his PM cannot be present, either.
Safely in an open-for-business Washington, protected by a posse of fellow biz-millionaires whom he co-opts to hail Trump’s fake economic miracle. (It’s part of his wheeze to push his own plans to put $65 billion in their pockets on return), our Prime Minister of cunning stunts, looks on, from afar, as Barnaby falls like Brueghel’s Icarus.
A poker-faced PM imagines his deputy drowning; a red stain spreading in the lower right of the national canvas as he bides his time waiting for Trump’s nanosecond attention-span to register his unctuous fawning. Coalition policy is to normalise Trump while playing up our dangerous, grovelling, dependency on the US as 100 years of mateship.
“The economic stimulus that your reforms have delivered here in the United States is one of the most powerful arguments that we are deploying to persuade our legislature to support reducing business tax,” our PM tells Trump. “Because, as you are demonstrating and as we all know, when you cut company tax, most of the benefit goes to workers. It produces more investment. And, when you get more investment, you get more jobs.”
Turnbull tells an outright lie. There is no evidence of economic stimulus. Nor is it reasonable to expect any, experts reckon, until at least a year has passed. And not even then. Most of the benefit goes to shareholders who see the value of their shares increase as the extra cash is spent on more stock buybacks or dividends.
US companies have not only overwhelmingly used the tax cut to buy back shares, wage increases turn out to be mainly one-off bonuses rather than an actual pay rise. $5.6bn has gone towards employee bonuses awarded on the basis of years served with the company while $171bn has gone into share buybacks.
Turnbull, nevertheless, persists with the palpable lie that trickle down does not in fact trickle up. And stay there. A few embedded journalists who travel with Turnbull repeat his fiction so that by Sunday’s ABC Insiders, the lie that 70% of US corporate tax cuts go to workers is reified, and will go on to become a canon of mainstream media (MSM) belief as our media sets the “national conversation” about tax. It’s wilful, fraudulent, disinformation.
Trickle-down is a joke. Comedian Will Rogers, poked fun at President Herbert Hoover’s Depression-era recovery efforts, with the line that “money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes it would trickle down to the needy.”
It’s still a joke today. In 2015, the IMF published a scathing indictment of the ways trickle-down theory has been used to justify growing income inequality over the past several decades. As for growth, the authors of the report write, “Income distribution matters for growth. Specifically, if the income share of the top 20 percent increases, then GDP growth actually declined over the medium term, suggesting that the benefits do not trickle down.”
Trump looks at Turnbull. He’s demolished the triple cheeseburger. Our PM cutely seizes his moment.
“We have been inspired, I have to say, by your success in securing the passage of the tax reforms through the Congress,” Turnbull flushes and gushes over Trump’s A$1.9 trillion tax cut for corporations and the wealthy.
Never mind that Treasury is reserved while the Reserve Bank thinks the “reforms” stink and economics boffins worry about where the money’s not coming from; how tax cuts funded entirely by debt may be a recipe for financial instability both in the US and at home. Trump just wants to hear praise for his guns in schools idea.
Fixing his trademark shit-eating grin in that awkward side-on-body-head-turned-to-the-camera handshake pose, a figure in an Egyptian frieze, Trumble offers best buddy Trump fearless advice on his latest show of stable genius: how to end school gun violence by arming teachers. Or does he? He could follow Sarah Chadwick’s example.
Sixteen year old Sarah, a survivor of the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, tweets to the Tweeter in Chief in language he understands , reports Richard Ackland
“I don’t want your condolences you fucking piece of shit, my friends and teachers were shot. Multiple of my fellow classmates are dead. Do something instead of sending prayers. Prayers won’t fix this. But gun control will prevent it from happening again.”
So what is, ” I am a strong leader”, Malcolm Turnbull’s fearless advice to our great and powerful friend?
“We certainly don’t presume to provide policy or political advice on that matter here,” he says bravely.
Keen to win back The Donald’s goldfish attention-span and knowing how the odd trillion helps buy the right type of friendship, Turnbull flashes some cash to revive the President’s flagging concentration. Some of Australia’s $2.53 trillion superannuation pool, he says, could “help unlock funding” for Trump’s infrastructure thought bubble.
Money can’t buy me love? OK, Trump may be fiscally illiterate. Senile. But what could possibly go wrong? In an a meaningless gesture costing nothing, the US will jinx its latest warship by naming it Canberra, the snafu capital of Australia, a city which is, moreover, synonymous with all manner of ruinously expensive combat and overkill.
Back in New England, Joyce is not feeling the love from all of his party. Mallee MP, narrow Andrew Broad who nearly resigned on account of the notion of granting gay people their right to marry and Andrew Gee, MP for Calare NSW, another MP stuck in the 1950s, join WA Nats leader, Mia Davies in telling Joyce publicly to resign.
Seasoned thespian, Barnstorming Barnaby Joyce, The Nationals’ chief bull-moose lunatic, dons his fustian and heroically soldiers on, as he struts and frets his last half-hour as leader; upon an outdoor stage. It’s a hill somewhere, there are no programme notes, a Tamworth Mount of Olives perhaps. Great setting, Barney.
Of all roles, he chooses an old standard, St Barnaby of the double cross to embrace his own, noble martyrdom.
A martyr to the rural poor, St Barnaby’s “Weatherboard Nine” is his Ocker-Strine bush dialect for weatherboard and iron. His protestation of selflessness is also pure Tamworth ham. In the end – and right from the beginning of the end, his speech is all about himself, whatever he may claim. Yet it also embodies core Nationals’ chicanery.
Self-pitying, self-serving, self-parodying to the end, only Barnaby could call a presser to draw attention to his own humility; his self-effacing public life of self-sacrifice and big-noting. His swan song echoes the strangled syntax and populist pretensions of his mentor, corrupt hill-billy dictator, Queensland Nationals’ Premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
“Can I say right from the start, this is never about me. It’s about the person in the weatherboard, something that manifestly expressed what the National party is about. It’s about the person in many places, their right to transcend through the economic and social stratification of life.” Now, parse that, you bastards he implies.
Incoherent, indulgent, unfathomable, Barnaby publicly salutes himself as the rural underdog’s top dog, the poor man’s champion. His hypocrisy rivals anything by Tony Abbott, also a Riverview old-boy with a privileged upbringing, although unlike Abbott’s parents, Joyce’s mother and father, he freely concedes are millionaires.
So, too are most of his pals. There’s mate Greg Maguire who lent his luxury apartment so Barnaby didn’t have to sleep on his sister’s couch. Greg also gave Barnaby and his partner Vikki a free holiday last month at his $4000 a week beachfront pad. Only last November, Gina Rinehart gave him a $40,000 cheque in public for his services to agriculture and in a heart-warming show of support she once bought a lazy $100,000 worth of raffle tickets.
John Anderson, a former Nationals’ leader also made a mozza. He got a plum job in mining company Eastern Star Gas in October 2007, just after leaving politics and according to Michael West, made $9 million when in 2011 the company was acquired by Santos.
Joyce still maintains he had no idea Eastern Star had a petroleum exploration licence over the Pilliga, including his properties at Gwabegar which he bought in 2006 and 2008. He’s been telling reporters that the land is up for sale for the last five years. Wags notice that the inland rail route now goes close to the property hugely boosting its value to any company such as Santos which may be interested in the gas beneath the land the mongrel land.
So it’s touching of Barnaby to remember his battlers, Friday. Looking out for the little bloke. He’s been recorded boasting in the bar of the Shepparton Hotel how he has helped billionaire cotton irrigators rort their Murray-Darling water allowances at the expense of poorer people relying on the water downstream – and of course, to do “the greenies down” because the last thing poor people deserve is a clean and healthy environment.
Barnaby’s also a Santos mining shill appearing on radio 2GB last September to spruik the advantages to farmer and environment of coal seam fracking, a service of great benefit to the billionaire multi-national corporation. True, his own government’s independent expert scientific committee recently finds significant “knowledge gaps” in the environmental impact study put forward by Santos. But it’s only fair that Barnaby gives the company a plug.
And one day soon, he really will sell that land he owns and there won’t be a whiff of conflict of interest.
On Friday, he’s selflessly standing aside for the battler. It’s only fair on those people on the weatherboard and iron, it’s only fair on that purpose of trying to make sure we continue that advancement of the person so that – if they are on the periphery of society, they can have the best opportunities – that there be some clear air.
Howard also invoked his mythic “battlers” as he gave away their birthright, including squandering a mining boom on tax handouts for rich businessmen while slashing worker’s pay and conditions with Work Choices, funding private schools at the expense of public and undermining Medicare by subsidising private health insurance.
Families suffered as child care rebates coincided with a shift to more expensive, privately owned for-profit child-care centres. In brief, Hosking argues, Howard created dependency, not just of the poor and disadvantaged who were scapegoated and stigmatised for much of his period of governance as they are today, but the heavily indebted, time poor, middle classes increasingly reliant on two incomes and welfare to stay solvent.
Barnaby’s back-block battlers have a right to get ahead, he says, despite his backing every Coalition initiative to suppress wage growth, cull full-time jobs, cut wages and conditions via a rigged Fair Work Commission, abolish Medicare by stealth and terrorise the poor with Centrelink’s robo-claw on the unemployed. It’s pure myth.
Myth creates a blissful clarity and natural justification without explanation or depth, wrote Roland Barthes.
Myth can be deadly. Even The Grattan Institute estimates that on current policies it will take 65 years before people in many parts of rural and remote Australia have the same access to GP services as city people.
Or is it the right to fight to get ahead? Must Joyce’s battlers pull themselves up by their own bootstraps?
Their right that even though they might not have had inherited wealth or might not have been born to the best family, or might not have had the best education, their right to advance, limited only by their innate abilities, to get as far as ahead in life as they possibly can by the sweat of their own brow.
Barnaby sounds as if he’s channelling John Howard’s aspirational voter. As Sean Hosking writes in New Matilda
Aspirationals were said to be upwardly mobile, independent, hard-working battlers bereft of the egalitarian character, welfare dependence and class based political identifications of the traditional Australian working class battler. As such they represented an attempt to shoehorn the values of the free market and political right onto the Australian working class.
It’s not the rip-snorting, water rorting or the pork barrel or even the mongrel land at Gwabegar he still swears he didn’t know had gas reserves, or his spruiking for Santos. Nor is it the $10 billion boondoggle of his Inland Rail Project, a white elephant even Treasury experts tell him will never turn a cent of profit. In the end Barnaby’s been stitched up by his party’s senior partners, The Liberals, leaking scandal after scandal to the Daily Telegraph.
Ironies abound but in the end True blue, bull-dust Barnaby, aka “The Red Octopus” may be finally felled by Catherine Marriott who lodges a “serious” sexual harassment complaint against him with National Party President Larry Anthony, scion of the powerful bush newspaper family and son on Nationals MP, Doug Anthony.
Larry Anthony who lobbied for the $1.2 billion Shenhua Watermark coal mine is still listed as a Director of the firm SAS Consulting Group, which counts the Chinese state-owned Shenhua group among its client list. Financial institution Indue Limited, which operates the Government’s cashless welfare card, is also a client.
How will the show end? It never ends. For Malcolm Turnbull, however, there is a chance to reset his special, secret relationship with the Nationals whereby he surrenders any right to independence and swears to follow a Tony Abbott hard right political agenda. So far all his public comments suggests he won’t rock the boat.
Turnbull’s government desperately needs the Nationals’ co-operation and that vital vote of Barnaby’s. But that can no longer be counted upon. Joyce did cross the floor thirty-eight times under Howard. Nor can Joyce be counted on to remain in politics. A lucrative job in mining may well be Barnaby’s new career. He can still wave cheerio to the battlers as he fracks their land and pollutes the local water supply to obtain gas to warm the atmosphere.
Sadly, for the PM and the leaking of Marriott’s name to The Australian may encourage other women to come forward, Tony Windsor, on social media lists several other cases of impropriety – all grist to the bush telegraph rumour mill. And also accessible to The Daily Telegraph, no doubt, should the masters of Joyce’s political universe decide it’s time The Nationals were taken down a peg. Already there are signs of movement at the gas station.
In the meantime, Turnbull has doubled his back-bench snipers adding a rancid Joyce to a rabid Abbott.
Ominously, Joyce has already promised “he won’t snipe”. As did Abbott. Their cat-calls and raspberries will make it even harder for Trumble to pay sufficient attention to his political masters, especially the holy trinity Shell, Origin Energy and Santos, an oligopoly that runs the National Party and much of the rest of the Coalition.
Even Nationals’ Andrew Broad, who chairs the House of Representatives moribund Environment and Energy Committee can see trouble looming. Turnbull may have sold the MSM his gas deal but Broad told the ABC last October that whilst it says it’s guaranteed supply, the Coalition’s done little or nothing about higher prices.
Finally, Turnbull has not exactly come out of the dust-up with his deputy as a stronger or more powerful leader.
if Turnbull does manage to get his $65bn corporate tax cuts through parliament – money that is being stolen from taxpayers to be given to some of the world’s largest corporations in a demonstrable hoax that the money will increase investment and worker’s wages, he does not have the credibility to sell his latest tactical diversion, a re-serving of the stale shit sandwich of the Coalition’s sycophantic relationship with its great and powerful friend, the USA especially when 80% of us regard Trump as either an important or critical threat to Australia.