Senator Joyce writes for the Canberra Times:
It became quite apparent that the journalist was trying to contact me. There had been two phone calls, and a text message, rather Alice-in-Wonderland-like, saying ”please call me”.
So, in respect of the public’s right to know, down the rabbit hole we went. She asked the question, ”Do you support your party’s baby bonus policy?” I will confess, I didn’t know what our baby bonus policy was or, rather more pointedly, didn’t know we had one. Ah, here lies the trap, I thought, there will be an article written about me: ”Barnaby unaware of Nationals baby bonus policy.”
I tried the usual political evasiveness. I told her that babies are wonderful, that they are our ”most important resource”, that the Nationals support, indeed have always supported, babies and, in particular, support those most inclined to have babies, women.
She then went on to tell me that our policy was to double the baby bonus.
That took me back a step, because the reality is that the original baby bonus, which was paid as a lump sum, was a ridiculous policy that caused immense damage.
Sending $5000, in a lump sum, to a household experiencing problems, such as alcohol or drug addiction, was not a solution but a disaster.
Last week, I visited areas where these social problems are quite apparent by the green cans adorned with two initials on the front lawns of indigenous housing in one of our most remote areas. No doubt the same problems exists in the non-indigenous areas of some of our urban centres.
The journalist accused me of mumbling and I was.
I was desperately, with the phone to my ear, trying to think where and when this policy came about.
Anyway, she had me. I was girding my loins for the inevitable banner.
However, the next day the banner didn’t decry my ignorance; in fact, it proclaimed my effusive endorsement with the headline: ”The big push for $10,000 baby bonus by Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce.”
The article went on to say that I had been pushing Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to double the baby bonus. I must admit this was news, especially to me.
Not at any time, sober or otherwise, have I ever broached the topic of doubling the baby bonus with Abbott, and there was certainly nothing that I had said to the journalist that could possibly be interpreted that I personally was pushing for it.
Editorials were written, it was time for me to be ”put back in a box”, which, on this topic, I had never crawled out of.
While I was sleeping, a poor Treasury clerk had been jerked out of the Holy Grail and sent to work to open Microsoft Excel and cost my policy, to which I remained happily oblivious.
Then, on the back of my presumed maternal benevolence, came a retinue of forthright condemnation by a whole bevy of media commentators, government ministers and colleagues of an idea that I never had. I was tempted to join the conga line myself: ”Barnaby condemns Joyce.” Later in the day, I did.
After putting out a statement denying that I had ever lobbied Abbott on doubling of the baby bonus, some emails from constituents who perhaps paid more attention to Insiders than to my media statement asked whether I had lost my marbles and why did I now advocate a doubling of the baby bonus.
The next day, despite my attempts to douse the flames created by my friendly incendiary scribe, I had to deal with the headlines that ”Joyce backflips on baby bonus position”, with a sneering incredulity on the subject of whether I had in fact lobbied Abbott to double the baby bonus.
Two days later, it was my ”apparent” position. Where did this story come from? I know the journalist is competent, so she would not have just made it up. It is highly unlikely she would have believed the Labor Party if it said I had been lobbying Abbott. So where did this credible source come from?
I have had curt exchanges via email with the journalist concerned, and even though we still ”adore” one another, we have decided not to talk to each other for a little while.