Born-again National Party leader Barnaby Joyce is a very outspoken politician—when he’s not in leadership. Now that he has returned as Deputy Prime Minister, it’s time for Joyce to show he’s not all talk and no action, and not a doormat to Scott Morrison as his predecessor was, by using his position to fight for the principles he has vocally espoused from the backbench.
While the world is again being duped to condemn and sanction Belarus and Russia, this time over a supposed “journalist” detained by Belarus who is actually a veteran of the openly Nazi Azov Battalion in Ukraine, an Australian journalist who fearlessly exposed Anglo-American hypocrisy and war crimes languishes in Belmarsh Prison in the UK, denied freedom for nine years. In 2019, Barnaby Joyce told the 13 October Sydney Morning Herald he opposed Julian Assange’s extradition to the USA because he is an Australian citizen and a publisher: “I support the proper process of Australian law as applied to our citizens in our land in respect of our laws”, he said, “It is the essence of sovereignty.”
Now that he is deputy to a PM who gushes that the US alliance is “the foundation for everything for us globally”, what will Barnaby do to defend Assange’s rights as an Australia citizen and publisher, and stand up to the Washington foreign policy establishment who want to kill him?
Consistent with his position on Assange, Barnaby Joyce has called for the Murugappan family to be returned to their hometown of Biloela because the two girls were born in Australia and had a right to stay. “Tharnicaa and Kopika were born in Australia”, he said on Sunrise on 14 June. “Maybe if their names were Jane and Sally we’d think twice about sending them back to another country which they’re not from,” he said. “Why not send them to Southern Sudan, why not send them to Rwanda, to Belarus? They’re also countries they were never born in.”
Of course, Scott Morrison and Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke caved to public pressure, but only did the bare minimum and let the family reunite in Perth, where they will live in community detention indefinitely with the threat of deportation hanging over their heads. Will Barnaby stand up to Morrison and Hawke on this moral issue?
Before the 2019 election, Barnaby Joyce jumped emphatically on the Bradfield Scheme bandwagon, joining Bob Katter, Sir Leo Hielscher, Sir Frank Moore, One Nation, the Citizens Party, the Bradfield Party and the many other supporters of Sydney Harbour Bridge engineer Dr J.J.C. Bradfield’s scheme to divert the floodwaters of Australia’s highest rainfall region of North Queensland into inland Australia. He said to Sky News on 11 February 2019:
“We could start the process of the Bradfield Scheme. The solution is moving from where we have too much to where not enough, from where there is an abundance to where there is paucity. This is something we could do. If that water was to come down, we would have irrigation through western Queensland towns, through western NSW. You'd be able to fill up the Menindee Lakes and deal with your problems basically at the lower lakes.”
More recently, in the Federation Chamber on 22 October 2020, he called the Bradfield Scheme “one of the greatest infrastructure projects this nation could undertake to grow its economic base and to assist us in the future in dealing with such things as $1.7 trillion in debt”.
Is Barnaby one of those politicians who tease Australians with talk of nation-building infrastructure, but never deliver, or will he use his position to realise the vision of economic development Australia desperately needs?
Net-zero and nuclear power
Barnaby Joyce is outspoken against the unrealistic pipedream of net-zero emissions, which is impossible to achieve in an industrial economy in which cement alone accounts for 8 per cent of global emissions. But he has correctly identified that the only realistic way to both reduce emissions from electricity production, and support a modern economy, is through nuclear power, which is banned in Australia. Joyce told Sky News on 2 February 2021: “You have to have a pathway and if you want zero emissions, nuclear power does it. We now have new energy in the United States, basically off the shelf pebble-bed reactors. The technology is miles ahead. It’s safer than Fukushima. We should get with the program. If you’re going to make a big statement, you’ve got to have a big policy agenda behind it and how you do it.”
When Scott Morrison forced out Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate on a contrived expenses scandal, only independent MP Bob Katter spoke out in her defence. On 2 December 2020, Barnaby Joyce became the first major-party politician to speak out, in a speech in Parliament in which he acknowledged, extraordinarily, that he had been wrong to condemn Christine Holgate, but having been presented with different facts by the Licensed Post Office Group, he changed his mind. He was also the first major-party politician to attack the agenda to privatise Australia Post.
The Australia Post saga is not over by a long shot. Someone in the government must ensure that the excellent recommendations in the Senate inquiry report are implemented, and must fight for the welfare of the LPO Group licensees who took on the government and Australia Post management to expose their agenda. Will Barnaby stand up for the licensees, whose businesses he knows are essential to regional Australia, against the PM who so callously smashed their futures by destroying the best CEO Australia Post has ever had? Including by championing a public postal bank, which will guarantee the viability of LPOs and financial services for regional communities, and which most Nationals support, but the private banks fear and despise?
This is the moment of truth for Barnaby Joyce—is he all talk, or will he be a statesman of action?
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