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From Julian to Barnaby, and points between

June 30, 2021

Opinion by Greg Ray.

All praise the Member for Rinehart

Thanks to Peter Lewis for this lifelike portrait of Barnaby and friend

Oh Barnaby. If the National Party is the tail that wags the Coalition dog, then where on the tail do we find Barnaby Joyce? At the head of the tail, of course. You might need to draw a picture to locate that precisely. But really, all you need to know about the Nationals in this day and age is that they are a shady rump of the former Country Party, still with some inexplicable credibility in rural and regional electorates even though in practice they overwhelmingly represent the interests of big mining and big agriculture.

Barnaby, for example, has sometimes unkindly been called “the Member for Rinehart”, on the basis of his cordial and mutually helpful relationship with mining magnate Gina Rinehart. Remember the $40,000 cheque? Many people equate Barnaby with incompetence – remember his performance as “drought envoy“? Others consider him sleazy and misogynist – remember his deep-rooted sentiments about family life? And the sexual harassment allegation? Some people have highlighted other matters – remember Australia’s own “watergate”?

But he’s just the sort of feller the Nationals want wagging their tail, so he’s back in the saddle again. Perfectly on cue, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) contributed this gushing tribute which appeared as a full-page article in The Newcastle Herald, praising Barnaby as the “megaphone for quiet Australians”. It turns out that the IPA has discovered that “quiet Australians” want exactly what big mining companies want: lots of mining, lots of fossil fuels and absolutely no effort to suppress carbon dioxide emissions! What a surprise. What a surprise, too, that the IPA is heavily funded by – wait for it – Gina Rinehart, the aforementioned mining magnate who campaigns strongly against climate action. If you make the mistake of reading the IPA article you will also learn that former Liberal PM Tony Abbott was a climate genius who never fell for “climate alarmism”.

Also on cue, Mr Abbott’s former chief-of-staff – Peta Credlin – used her Murdoch media platforms to praise Barnaby and his rebooted National Party leadership. If you can’t (or don’t want to) get behind the Murdoch paywalls to hear Peta Credlin’s lectures on why billionaires know best, you can find her musings on various IPA platforms, which just goes to show. I think the IPA wants her to join the Senate, and presumably it would be very much in favour of her recent Order of Australia award.

Speaking for myself, I only glance wincingly into the dystopian black mirror of the Murdoch world when I want some sense of what our corporate masters and their political puppy dogs are planning to dish up to us in the weeks and months ahead. So I wonder now, are they going to bring back Tony?

Don’t mention Julian Assange

While the mainstream press has acres of space to devote to the barely coherent ramblings of an oversexed backwoods beetroot impersonator, it has little appetite to mention an Australian journalist spuriously imprisoned for telling the truth about matters of grave public importance. That would be Julian Assange. You can be excused if you haven’t caught up on the fact that the key witness used by US authorities to indict Assange is actually a liar, sex offender and financial fraud. With qualifications like that you are probably thinking he must be an Australian cabinet minister, but he’s just some Icelandic dude with issues. But you aren’t going to learn that the already paper-flimsy case against Assange is even weaker than it already looked unless you seek information outside the mainstream. What’s being done to Assange is slow-motion political assassination, pure and simple. Because people in power who are ok with civilians in foreign countries being blown apart for no reason are also of the opinion that we “can’t handle the truth”, so it needs to be withheld from us at all costs.

Another kick in the guts for Newcastle

It’s a fact of life that regional NSW gets a bum deal from state governments, no matter which party is in power. Just looking briefly at the Port of Newcastle, for example, it was the Obeid-Tripodi Labor Government that dissuaded car importers from building a terminal in Newcastle, where they wanted to, because Labor saw political advantage in putting it at Port Kembla instead. And it was the Coalition government that put secret clauses in the sale documents for the privatisation of the ports of NSW that aim to stop Newcastle from having a container terminal. It’s a scandalous thing that the government lied about and tried to suppress. All credit to The Newcastle Herald for revealing the truth and staying on the story. And all credit to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for finally challenging the outrageous clauses in a case before the Federal Court. Incredibly (to my mind at least) the court has dismissed the challenge! It hasn’t published its reasons yet, and I will be fascinated to read them when they appear. Surely it must be some kind of constitutional technicality, since the facts seem utterly open-and-shut. A container terminal in Newcastle was deliberately made unviable by secret punitive contractual clauses imposed by the State Government so that it could maximise the sale price of the Port of Sydney. Honestly, the treatment of regional NSW by state governments is nothing short of scandalous. It’s about time people really kicked up a stink about it.

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