“Australians all let us re-Joyce.” The second coming of Weatherboard Nine Messiah, Barnaby Joyce, causes much glee amongst cult devotees and much clutching of pearls within Coalition circles.
Multitasking, miracle-worker and maven of lost causes, Peta Credlin, AO, Tony Abbott’s stage mother and former front-end of the pantomime horse that was his government, a two year IPA triumph, jumps for Joyce, also a Riverview Old Boy. Calls Joyce a fellow “conviction conservative” who is just what the doctor ordered.
If Barnaby can’t put lead in the Nationals’ pencil, then, who can?
Not only will BJ miraculously resurrect a party shagged by agribusiness, done over by beggar-thy-neighbour neoliberals, populist grifters and carpet-baggers; under a coercive “partner” and in terminal decline since the fifties; now in a long twilight of bewildered nostalgia. He’ll shift the whole Coalition clown-show stage-right. Seriously?
Of course, this is what Credlin is paid to say. She’s another Murdoch handmaid, servant of an oligarchy that makes its money by investing in Big Mining, Big Pharma, Big Cotton and other soulless corporations; who enable an intensive multinational capitalist agriculture that brings with it deadly new viruses.
“COVID-19 should not be seen as an exogenous shock (that is, something coming from the outside) to our otherwise healthy social system. Rather, the pandemic is a side effect of capitalism’s extractive relationship with the natural world, mediated through and multiplied by globalised chains of production, distribution and travel. This growing likelihood of global pandemics is just one example of how this dynamic will have deadly consequences far beyond planetary warming,” writes Omar Hassan.
On the other hand, or in Joyce’s case, ham-fist, Regional Coalition MPs, Anne Webster and Michelle Landry fret that BJ will frighten the fillies. Joyce 2.0 will not go down well with women voters.
Founder of Australian Women in Agriculture, Alana Johnson, tells Guardian Australia it is “astounding” the Nats would reinstate Joyce. “like a dog returning to his vomit”; The Australian‘s Troy Bramston, puts it nicely.
Barnaby’s a Brahman bull in a China shop, whose animal spirits coupled with his blunt, outspoken oratory can crash through all affectation, civilised decorum and the rule of law to get results, his fanatical followers fondly believe. Who cares if a Taylor mob business’s Cayman account gets $80 million in a water rort? That’s BJ’s “retail” political genius. He’s also Scott Morrison’s useful idiot; a timely distraction in a crisis.
Joyce rushes into Alan (The Parrot) Jones’ studio for a quick benediction from The Sky Priest of Coalition Politics. Racist, misogynist, mining shill “I don’t swallow all this zero-emissions rubbish” Jones eagerly obliges.
Ratings can only improve with a deputy PM on his “very pro-coal” Sky TV show, piped free like Zyklon-B into every parliamentary office. And into the better class of private dementia wards in Sydney.
Joyce, ever the celebrity politician, gets a pat on the head for his word-perfect recital of the coal-miners’ creed. Backs both coal and nuclear power to make electricity we already make cheaper and more reliably with wind, sun and hydro. Basking in the Sky-light, recycling mining companies’ lies, Joyce helps paint Morrison positively green by comparison, with his vapid, “… towards zero by 2050, preferably” Clayton’s commitment.
Having BJ the clown around is very timely. Upstaged, momentarily, is the horror show Morrison government’s criminal negligence in aged care, (910 fatalities to date and counting). Add its catastrophic failure to secure a nation’s vaccination or provide an effective quarantine system, declining Pfizer’s offer to provide any amount of vaccine in July 2020. How good is AZ? A dud vaccine, you can’t even make enough of in time?
Monday, Morrison blames the pandemic for the NSW crisis. It’s a desperate bid which won’t wash with the public. The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy notes, ” … coronavirus didn’t stop Australia getting Pfizer, or failing to vaccinate workers, or failing to roll out dedicated quarantine facilities.” Morrison’s government did that.
Rachel Withers from The Monthly generously speculates that Morrison is tired; in a slip of the tongue, he declares AstraZeneca fit for all Australians. He has to be seen to be doing something. The latest wave of infections which began in NSW has his name on it. The AMA or ATAGI wont’ have a bar of it.
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advises the Minister for Health on the National Immunisation Program (NIP) and other immunisation issues. Or that’s it’s official rationale.
But Hunt ignores ATAGI. In pure pandemic politics, Health Minister and Chief Medical Officer rush to support a PM. In a revealing parallel tactic, leaks against Health Department Secretary Brendan Murphy are find their way to media outlets who regularly help a Morrison regime with the scapegoating so vital to good governance.
On Sky or its website we can read just how Brendan Murphy is “a big problem in the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.” Sky News Editor, Andrew Clennell, explains how Morrison and Hunt have been misled by Murphy on vaccinations in stadiums, on getting your jab at your local chemist – how he opposed regional quarantine; how he was confident in the AstraZeneca; how he’s been usurped by Lieutenant-General JJ Frewen, (you can always trust a man in uniform). Ominously, Clennell adds a thinly disguised call to sack Murphy,
“Scott Morrison needs to show leadership… Yes, you listen to the health advice but at the end of the day, you’re in charge.” Clearly, Clennell is misinformed. Morrison doesn’t hold the swab. The PM’s whole modus operandi is to deny responsibility. Unless singing his own praises. It’s hypocritical from a government which has long preached how every decision taken is on medical experts’ advice. Above all it’s dangerous.
“It’s a train wreck” says former Federal Health Department Secretary, Professor Stephen Duckett, now of The Grattan Institute. For Duckett, the federal government’s vaccination fiasco is a staffing failure at heart. Many of the ‘over-hyped and under-delivered’ failures of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout have origins in another pandemic; a neoliberal ideology which led LNP and Labor governments to strip the APS of its resources and expertise over decades. Atop these dire shortages, the Morrison government imposed a staffing cap.
After six weeks, Duckett criticised the vaccine “stroll-out” for the wrong pace, phasing, model and messaging. Now, four months in, he says, there still no real sense of urgency. Health-care, quarantine, disability-workers, aged-care workers and residents have still not been fully vaccinated. Mass vaccination requires vaccination centres and whilst there’s been some movement towards these, the Pfizer phase reverts to a GP model.
Finally, he notes the damage done by the wrong messaging, the relentless self-congratulatory boosterism, the endless shonky, dishonest superlatives in which we were the world’s best ruled out admitting mistakes.
And learning from them. Mid-week, Health Minister Hunt is corrected by Simon Birmingham: we’re not first in the queue for Pfizer, we’re last in the queue. Greg Hunt is still spinning the lie that we lead the world in vaccine uptake. In fact, we are last in the OECD, with five percent of our population fully vaccinated says Nine’s Waleed Aly on The Project. He flashes a graph from Our World in Data.
“Envy of the world” bullshits the PM. Yet both the BBC and CNN ask what is wrong with Australia’s rollout. In the end, his government’s vaccine advice has been bewildering. Incoherent. Confused and contradictory.
Calling in men in uniform can misfire, too. Drafting a navy commander, an army general, and now the national security committee of cabinet into Operation Covid Shield not only sounds over the top, it further undermines an Australian Public Service already browbeaten, underfunded and outsourced – a privatisation by stealth.
What we can rely upon is the government’s inconsistency. Hunt’s upbeat and down about the AZ vaccine, launching a scare campaign about blood clots, which have afflicted sixty-four Australians so far according to ABC’s Ellen Coulter. Two so far have died. The overall case fatality rate in Australia is 3%. Today, Hunt’s commending AZ – adding a bit of gas-lighting – “always been our policy” when it clearly hasn’t.
The Federal Health Minister’s embraced five official changes of position on who AstraZeneca is safe for.
One moment, Hunt declares a moratorium; the vaccine will be withdrawn in October. Now he’s suddenly advising everyone over eighteen to have a jab. Doctors will be given legal immunity, he promises. (Patients can fend for themselves?) It’s hardly a resounding vote of confidence in the vaccine.
Oddly, doctors want to see that in writing. Legal experts politely suggest GPs already have indemnity.
Why the change? Morrison’s made a captain’s call, long after the Premiers have switched off his virtual national cabinet meeting microphones and cameras. It’s just COAG by another name but like all of MC Morrison’s moves it sounds impressive. MC? He doesn’t do stuff, he just makes announcements.
Did he order the Pfizer. Or just talk about it? Do we really have only 300,000 does of AZ left?
Premiers are not happy. It’s a desperate attempt to cover up the mess that he’s got us into. Wednesday, They distance themselves from Morrison’s decision. It did not come from national cabinet, they say, despite Hunt’s insistence that it was “noted”.
Queensland is vehemently opposed to Morrison’s big new idea. Its protest can only add to an undermining of public confidence in AstraZeneca, a confidence the federal Health minister and his PM have already wrecked.
More damage is done when Queensland reveals that its requests for more Pfizer are being denied by the federal government. Is the PM’s lifting of AZ age restrictions, in fact, a desperate move to cover up an acute shortage of Pfizer vaccine? Queensland says it is, The Monthly’s Rachel Withers, reports.
But look over there. The Auditor General releases a report condemning Al Tudge and Mick McCormack’s Infrastructure Department’s $600 million plus car-park-pork-barrel bonanza. Part of a larger rort, the $4.8 billion Urban Congestion Fund dumps truckloads of public funds in forty-seven electorates in a bid aimed at saving Liberal seats in Melbourne and Labor’s marginal seats such as Lindsay in the 2019 election campaign.
No process, guidelines or criteria need apply, notes Bernard Keane. The never-say-sorry Morrison mob says it’s all OK, they were “election commitments”, aka bribes.
Another dead cat is on the table is called for. How good are Crosby Textor playbook trained minders? The cat is very dead. Scotty’s convict ancestor, William Roberts was born on Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula in 1755.
Scotty has convict ancestors? Who would have thought? Flashback to his OS junket where he acts the fawning colonial with the Queen venturing the palpable lie that HM’s presence at a G7 was anything but inappropriate;
“Quite the hit, your Majesty”, he toadies. Betty Windsor winces. After getting the bum’s rush from Biden at a G7, he gate-crashes, he looks up a family felon in a Cornish pub-crawl. As you do.
Oxymoron alert. Online rag, Cornwall Live, tells a bemused reader that our PM just has to tear himself away from the G7 to visit three pubs because he’s in quest of his fifth great grandpa William Roberts.
Convicted of stealing “five pound and half weight of yarn” from William Moffatt of Launceston, Cornwall, Roberts was packed off to Botany Bay for seven years. But don’t try this at home, unless you are a Kiwi.
Roberts spent time in Bodmin Jail and St Keverne, which his great grandson just has to visit, too. It’s all totally innocent and not at all doing personal stuff on the public purse, Morrison protests on Monday to Ben Fordham on Sydney’s 2GB where the PM’s always up for a rigorous, on-air, full body massage.
What the PM doesn’t explain, (no-one tells him), is that behaving oddly is known to locals as going “a bit Bodmin”. Aussies stranded overseas are unimpressed with Scotty’s soft-diplomacy, as Simon Birmingham describes it. Catching up with family on a taxpayer funded junket? If only they could do the same.
Never missing a trick, Labor Senator, Kristina Keneally, is quick to take up their cause;
“Aussies can’t visit loved ones overseas and stranded Aussies can’t get home,” she says.
“In November, I said goodbye to my dying father on Zoom. Haven’t yet visited his grave in the USA. A secret trip to visit UK relatives who died 200 years ago. One rule for Scott …”
Pulling the wool runs in Morrison’s family. How good is a black sheep? Ask Fran Bailey who had Morrison sacked a year before the end of his contract in 2006 over his departure from established tender processes, a breach that just can’t be traced. Incredibly, Morrison may have lied at the time, reports Michael West.
“FoI documents … reveal the PM either lied about a critical probity report, or numerous government departments and agencies are so incompetent that all of them – together, coincidentally, jointly and severally – lost it.” Morrison lie? Documents? “Where the Bloody Hell Are You?”
But don’t look over here. Look over there! Murdoch’s claque which usurps an independent press in most of Australia – and which even sets the agenda for our ABC, is applauding NSW for imposing a lockdown – after spending a fortune rebuking Dan Andrews for his government’s handling of the pandemic in Victoria.
There’s at least 177 victims of the Morrison Pandemic in the Bondi cluster this Thursday day; NSW’s biggest Covid cluster, yet. Worryingly, as it was with the Ruby Princess the state may be, again, a super spreader.
Number one fangirl, Gladys Berejiklian, puts “gold standard” NSW under lockdown, an act of apostasy that ScoMo can only admire by complimenting the virus on its fiendish virulence. The virus made her do it.
Ex-beau, Daryl Maguire? Not guilty. Thrown under his own tractor. Gladys’ new squeeze, Arthur Moses SC, who is also appearing for the plaintiff in Ben Roberts’ defamation soap opera loves a full brief. Handy pal to have should victims or families of those suffering effects of a botched rollout bring charges of negligent homicide. Yet all is not lost on the dog-eat-God dung heap that is our national body politic.
He’s back. Dan Andrews, that is. Scotching loopy Louise Staley’s malicious myth-making and Murdoch’s conspiracy theorists who accuse the Victorian premier of lying down on the job just to fake a sickie, Long running daytime TV show Dan in Dock resumes transmission in Spring Street this week.
Series critics, Sky’s Peta Credlin and News Corp’s Rachel Baxendale are already booked to do their infamous, fatuous nit-picking, innuendo, airing of rumour and lynch mob parody aka Dan’s press conference.
He’s back 2.0. Cue Alice Cooper’s theme song from low budget slasher, Friday 13 part VI: Jason lives as Santos’ man in the populist mask, Tamworth Tupper, Oz-politics’ answer to bonking Boris, Barnaby Thomas Gerard Joyce bobs up in the murky undertow of Nationals’ politics like a turd in the surf at Bondi. One term of Barnaby as Nats’ leader was bad enough – but, as Niki Savva sniffs, two begin to look like sheer carelessness.
Is Niki right? Did Morrison’s overweening ego and contempt for McCormack lead him to abandon the Kabuki theatre of deference toward the Coalition’s junior partner and pave the way for Joyce’s coup?
Or did he shrewdly engineer the return of the man who kindly reminds us that regional dwellers like himself “don’t give a shit” about what happens in Melbourne. Because beef and coal are up.
Perhaps the PM has a similar indifference to BJ’s elevation. Joyce can only make the PM look good – And Morrison can certainly use a bit of distraction. Currently, he couldn’t look any worse. Why waste energy?
Even though ScoMo can’t abide Mick-Mack, he could hide it better. Captain Smirk of the Liberal starship Enterprise may have just given up pretending McCormack is a leader. Macca’s so dull he could bore for Australia. Even 2GB’s Coalition catspaw, Fordham sees it.
Calling for the current rural mouse plague to gnaw inner city trendies, however, suggest aberrant thinking.
Mice “rehomed” to inner-city suburbs to nibble the feet of animal rights activists and “scratch their children at night”, Michael McCormack, tells parliament whilst Morrison is drinking beer in pubs in Cornwall.
But the homophobic Elvis impersonator is not just a master of rebarbative wit in the lower house.
Getting his Infrastructure Department to rort the Urban Congestion fund over $600 million to buy seats in electorates the Coalition needed to win in 2019 was a stroke of genius. The funds ended up in places where congestion either wasn’t a problem or the carpark for rail commuters, proposed could never be built.
Why pretend that the Nationals, a rump of rorters and spivs from central casting stand for anything beyond pork barrelling, shilling for mining corporations and losing seats to Liberals?
Things come to a head when Morrison drops his “net zero emissions preferably by 2050” trick slogan with no consultation. Not cabinet. Not with anyone, let alone the Coalition’s “junior partner”.
Where experts such as ABC psephologist, Antony Green will tell you that for thirty years, the Nationals mostly lose their seats to Liberals and hardly ever win them back, Morrison already has the party dead and buried. Yet without the Nats’ RM Williams’ moleskin bums on seats, the Libs would be just another clapped-out, Tory party failing in opposition. As in WA, Victoria, Queensland or the NT.
(Although in Victoria, lobster-with-a-mobster Libs may become another chapter in the Book of Mormon.)
If Mick-Mack lowers the tone, the re-elevation of Joyce, another climate denier and mining shill, leaves the PM without even a hollow promise to lowering carbon emissions. It’s more bad news for anyone who has grandchildren or who cares about the planet; anyone who isn’t a mining company tout.
Above all, BJ’s big step up is a resounding slap-down for women. Not only is there every chance that another misogynist will step into McCormack’s place on Morrison’s Task Force for Patronising Women but we now have two cabinet members with unresolved allegations of sexual misconduct or worse against them in a cabinet in which includes Linda Reynolds who calls Brittany Higgins “a lying cow”.
A petition demanding Joyce’s removal is currently only about 400 signatures short of its 25,000 target, reports Crikey’s Charlie Lewis. Another petition on GetUp to remove Joyce for corruption is doing well, too.
Naturally, our Murdoch-controlled press is tickled pink to see the BJ (beetroot jus) soufflé rise twice. Our man from Pravda, (The Australian’s) Greg Sheridan, hails his pal Barney’s return, as “a high-wire populist leader”.
It’s a big stretch. Even for fossil-fuelled, Sinophobic, warmonger and Trump fanboy Greg Sheridan. Leader?
Next it will be “visionary”. (On carbon emissions, Joyce reckons 2050 is too far away to be sure of anything, other than that most MPs will be dead.) Fans reach for easy clichés. Barn’s a “retail politician” who could sell you anything and who achieves “cut-through”, a buzz-word for Trumpian vulgarity, upstaging, buttock-pinching and harassing a seventeen year old woman in the Ladies’ toilet of a Canberra pub, it is alleged.
A Murdoch media fawns over Joyce. His copy writes itself, as with Trump or Boris.
Sometimes it has to. A few praise Joyce for his jazz-like improv work. Unlike Trump or Boris, Barn segues effortlessly – fearlessly – from the logical to the scatological. Take his recent riff on a recent Q&A
“I don’t want their problems in our streets … If I get engrossed in Palestinian/Israeli politics, I take my mind off here … I don’t want to see someone else’s turd in my toilet and if you come into our country … flush it.”
Barn has a few fans, but probably not amongst Palestinian refugees. He’s “the perfect political animal,” gushes Richo a flush former (Labor) Party animal and fellow dodo himself. But Joyce 2.0 is fit, rested. Restored. In epic and abject inadequacy, he tells us he’s a reformed character. Often.
I’ve become “a better person”, he claims. Person? The women’s allegations go to his workplace behaviour. But, let’s be fair, Barnaby, like Joh, doesn’t do coherence. Or contrition. His rise will do nothing but add to the Coalition’s problem with women – women voters that is.
Flash as a rat with a gold tooth, he’s off like a frog in a sock after being back-benched after Catherine Marriott’s allegation that that two years prior, after a 2016 Canberra function, he sexually harassed her.
Marriott is a prominent and highly respected WA agricultural businesswoman. Must be lying.
BJ made the news, just prior, by going public with details of his long-term relationship with his former media adviser, Vikki Campion, who has since become mum to his two sons, Sebastian, who was born in April 2018 and then Thomas, born in June 2019. He still says he believes in the sanctity of marriage and spoke against enabling free Gardasil vaccination against HPV because it would make young women promiscuous.
Sebastian is a sensation at Dave Hurley’s joint as he tears into frame, fit to wreck any Governor General’s decorum or antique furniture. So comforting to see Seb’s a chip off the old block, as Barn gets sworn in a second time as Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, a preposterous legacy of a Coalition deal that perpetuates the lie that the two parties’ union is anything but a marriage of political convenience.
Or that we actually have a functioning Prime Minister instead of an observer, someone who makes announcements about vaccine supplies but who never really ever gets around to getting any.
Or that the Nats are anything but an historical atavism, or, as Morrison implies this week, a very junior partner. A Britney Spears’ type of conservatorship may well be the new paradigm. The secret agreement will not be re-written just because the Tamworth Tupper gets the hollow crown. Nor will the vitriol from the PM’s office now oozing into favoured media outlets ever let up. Morrison’s reliable that way.
Joyce drunkenly “.. pinched me on the bottom” following a 2011 awards ceremony at a Canberra pub, claims another woman who must be making it all up. Joyce complains that his political rivals have fabricated malicious stories about him. Yet in 2011, he was just a Queensland senator. Just a bloke behaving badly in a pub according to John Clements, former chief adviser to Tony Windsor.
Joyce denies it all. His own party could reach “no determination”, on the allegation after eight months’ deliberation. Yet the Federal Nats did throw due process to out the window by immediately leaking Marriott’s confidential complaint to News Corp. Naturally, the party refused Marriott’s repeated requests to make their deliberations public. It’s how it is in the boys’ club of Australian politics. Secret men’s business.
“I walked up to my hotel room and I burst into tears. I then couldn’t sleep that whole night. I didn’t actually sleep for a week,” Marriott recalls, in her account of the aftermath of her encounter with Joyce.
Barney’s elated. He’s off his chops to be top dog again. Yet he wins last Monday’s Federal National Party spill by one vote; eleven out of twenty-one. His appointment confirms that the National Party is not listening to women, say a number of rural women leaders reports The Guardian’s Sarah Martin. Nationals’ Michelle Landry and Anne Webster both believe restoring Joyce to the leadership will alienate women voters.
But always back the horse named self interest. The Nationals morphed into Rorts R Us long ago, opines Crikey’s Bernard Keane.
“Always remember that the Nationals are, foundationally, not a political party, but a conspiracy to rort taxpayers. And that will always come through in whatever they do.”
Now the mining corporation shills have their work cut out to keep up the pretence that they’re a political party or that they represent the bush. Desperation rules. Recycling a diabolical liability in favour of ScoMo’s muppet, the dud, homophobic Elvis impersonator, Invisible Mick, “Get off the Grid” McCormack is one way of keeping yourself current. Hell would freeze over before Mick would listen to the Greens on climate change.
“Unplug ya mug.” Mick is already a legend for his advice to all latte-sipping, hemp shirted, mung-bean sandal, inner-city hipsters and any other critics of Coalition’s plans to build new coal-fired electricity plants.
“We absolutely need high-efficiency, low-emission coal-fired power stations,” Joyce tells Alan Jones. As if they exist. As if they are not more mining company propaganda. On climate, BJ is Tony Abbott in an Akubra.
“No one likes big holes in the ground … but the point is, you like your health system, you like your education system.” Another lie. Subsidies enjoyed by mining plus the cost of the damage done to environment and climate far exceed any income they provide us.
Joyce says small modular reactors could “power the city of Tamworth, the city of Armidale and a lot of other towns beside” with technology you could transport “on the back of a truck”.
Except they don’t exist outside of mining corporation propaganda. A single 300 MW reactor operating at 90 percent capacity factor would withdraw 160 million to 390 million gallons of water every day, heating it up before discharge. SMRs are a chimera . They will not play any real role in climate change mitigation.
Nor is there a role for Darren Chester as Barnaby swiftly rewards those who backed his coup and punishes those who did not. “Flash bit of kit”, champion sports roster Bridget McKenzie is now back in cabinet proving you can rort all you like. Why you can get away with anything in a Morrison government.
Whether Morrison will get away with neglecting the Liberals’ relationship with the Nationals or engineering Barnaby Joyce’s resurrection through wilful neglect of the Coalition’s junior partner remains to be seen. What seems inevitable is that Joyce will cost the Coalition votes in the next election, at least amongst women.
Equally inescapable is the conclusion that the Morrison pandemic is a catastrophic failure to organise supply an enough of an appropriate vaccine and an effective distribution system – just as it’s clear the government has failed in its responsibility to the vaccinate the elderly and frontline workers. It has also ducked its duty to set up an effective quarantine system and instead wasted time criticising hotel quarantine in Victoria.
But look over there. The arrival of Joyce on the scene may be a welcome distraction for a PM who thrives on evasion and may even gain from a climate denier and coal lobby shill even shriller than himself or his own right wing ginger group. On the other hand, Bramston, a favoured Morrison government flack thunders;
“Joyce has little credibility in rural and regional Australia. He is a turn-off for most voters, including those who vote traditionally for the Nationals, and especially women. Nationals voters are typically socially conservative. They will recoil at the return of Joyce, his bumbling manner and soap-opera life. He was once a great retail politician but his life became a train wreck. He is a wrecker and a spoiler.”
In the end, the Joyce factor may end up multiplying Morrison’s challenges and highlighting even further his government’s corruption, ineptitude and inadequacy; its lies and, above all, its catastrophic failure to protect its people.