Barnaby Joyce has given us some entertaining and some confusing lines in his career as a politician, particularly in areas surrounding climate change and clean energy. He rails against the “lemming” like rush to renewables, he doubts the science of climate change, he thinks frosts are proof that global warming is not occurring, and concurs with Andrew Bolt that the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology must be part of some global conspiracy.
Still, in 2013, the local electors in the seat of New England voted him in as their MP in the hope that at least he’d get a few things right – like using his influence in a Coalition government to act in the best interests of one of the Australia’s richest farming regions.
But apparently he can’t. Despite being the local member, the deputy leader of one of the two parties that form the Coalition government, a member of Cabinet and the Minister for Agriculture, Joyce says he is powerless to stop the potential destruction of what he describes as Australia best farming land in the Liverpool Plains by a new coal mine – the $1.2 billion Shenhua project, that is of such a size it would swallow even the city of Sydney.
Joyce has protested that the decision does not make sense and suggests the world “has gone mad”. But just three days earlier, Joyce had stood on Victorian farmland with his boss, prime minister Tony Abbott, with a plan to boost agriculture once all the coal had been dug up.
“One day the coal will have been dug up, the gas will have been extracted, but we will always need food and our land forever,” Abbott told reporters in Victoria on Saturday.
A few days later – and notwithstanding his ramblings on climate and clean energy – it dawned on Joyce how ridiculous those comments were. If you dig up all the coal, or more specifically those in great farming land like the Liverpool Plains, then there is no land left to produce much of anything.
To highlight the confusion and chaos, and the say-anything-on-the-spur-of-the-moment mentality of this government, Abbott says Joyce is just being a concerned local member. Joyce says that’s crap, he’s speaking because he is minister of agriculture. albeit a powerless one. Evidently, however, this is not a matter of principal and he won’t resign.
Watching this government talking its way through climate and clean energy policy – its rants against wind farms, its support of coal, its trashing of the science and climate policies – is a little like watching a game of Bonk – with each response contradicting the previous one.
It should be no surprise. The whole conservative push against is orchestrated by a potent mix of ideology and vested interests – deny the science of climate change, accept it’s happening but not because of human actions; and then if humans are causing it, then it’s probably a good thing, particularly for plants.
One of the principal conductors-in-chief, the Institute of Public Affairs, has just given out a hand-book to Coalition politicians on how to argue the case for coal in a package entitled “the life saving potential of coal”.
“The potential of coal as one of Australia’s most important exports and as the backbone of Australia’s domestic electricity generation is being put at risk by domestic and international activists,” it says. Maybe it should add Joyce to the list of domestic activists.
Of course, it won’t, because unless he resigns, it could be argued that he is just putting on a show. As Tony Windsor, the former independent MP suggested this week, Joyce is full of hot air. Even Jacqui Lambie has taunted Joyce on his inability to get an exemption in his own electorate.
It begs the question.. What is the point of Barnaby Joyce? The rest of Australia has been wondering about this for years, but that is the very question the New England electorate must be asking itself right now. It probably explains their joyous response to the prospect that Tony Windsor – a man who actually sounds like he believes in something – may consider a return to politics and run against Joyce.