Tag Archives: barnaby joyce

Et tu, Barnaby?

8 Dec

“And you too, Barnaby?”

Alas, dear reader.

Rather like hopes for a responsible, ethical, national sovereignty-honouring Federal Government, or a reversal of Australia’s ever-rising debt levels, this blog has now come to the end of its life.

I confess that a small part of me would like to point the finger at reasons other than my own growing loss of interest in all things political and economic.

Certainly, it would be easy to cite our new government’s immediate display of galactic hypocrisy on debt and deficits — with nary a whisper in public opposition from a disappointingly craven Barnaby Joyce — as reason sufficient to pull the pin on a blog bearing the title “Barnaby Is Right”.

But truth be told, the real reason is my decision to finally heed a more heartfelt incentive; the deep peace and serenity that past experience assures will always come from spending most of life’s moments thinking only on things that enrich, ennoble, and inspire.

Or, best of all, not thinking at all.

Readers with a well-honed sense of the sardonic will, I am sure, readily observe that while the latter often appears endemic in those who practice in or comment on the fields of economics and politics, almost never is the former in evidence.

Thank you to all who have read, commented, and most importantly, shared.

But now, it is time for your humble blogger to bid you adieu, and return to a life better titled contemptus mundi, contemptus saeculi.


Barnaby Sells Out?

4 Oct

From the Australian:

BARNABY Joyce, who has built his political career opposing foreign investment, is under fire for hypocrisy after giving his blessing to the sale of two of the Northern Territory’s best known cattle stations to Indonesia’s biggest live cattle importer.

The Agriculture Minister, who two weeks ago asked Australians to “make a big noise” and oppose the Indonesian government’s plan to purchase a million hectares of cattle country, said he supported the latest sale after talking to the Northern Territory cattle industry.

The Santori company – a subsidiary of the Indonesian agribusiness Japfa group – is purchasing two large Northern Territory cattle properties, Riveren and Inverway stations.

Mr Joyce said last night he made the decision to support the sale after talking to northern Australian cattlemen.

“They wanted the sale to go forward,” he said.

The Deputy Nationals Leader said the purchase of the two cattle stations was a joint venture on lease-hold land, that would kick-start the live cattle trade to Indonesia.

He dismissed the charge of hypocrisy, declaring the Greens wanted to “shut down the trade all together” and Labor had created the slump in cattle exports in the first place. “We are just trying to sweep up the dishes they dropped,” he said.

Mr Joyce’s decision to support the sale is a stark departure from his public call – about two weeks ago, before being appointed to the ministry – for Australians to “make a big noise” and oppose a similar plan from the Indonesian government to buy farmland and raise cattle for the domestic market.

“I cannot possibly see how it is in the national interest, what benefit is it to Australian farmers, to Australian taxpayers, if another entity buys our land to breed their cattle, exports them to their own facilities and pays tax in another country,” Mr Joyce said at the time.

The Nationals deputy leader’s about-face received a mixed reception from his party colleagues yesterday. Some of them have flagged a tough fight on the potential sale of Australia’s largest listed agribusiness, GrainCorp, to US firm Archer Daniels Midland if it is approved by Joe Hockey.

NSW Nationals senator John Williams said Australia should own its own farmland, with the profits going back into regional and rural towns.

“Have the owners of those stations had them on the market for a long time?” Senator Williams said. “Are they desperate to get out? If they can’t get a local buyer, then I wouldn’t blame them for selling to a foreign buyer. But I like to see Australians own our farmland. I want to see the profits of those farms spent locally in our regional towns.”

Queensland LNP MP George Christensen said Mr Joyce was only meeting the demands of industry.

“You have to talk to the local industry, and my understanding is that they are all behind it.

“In that case, as Australia’s Agriculture Minister, he is (fulfilling) the wishes of the Australian agricultural industry,” he said.

Barnaby To Fight Miners

11 Sep

From the Australian:

 Billionaire Gina Rinehart turned up at Barnaby Joyce's post-election party in Tamworth. Picture: Peter Lorimer Source: The Australian

Billionaire Gina Rinehart turned up at Barnaby Joyce’s post-election party in Tamworth. Picture: Peter Lorimer Source: The Australian

OUTSPOKEN Nationals frontbencher Barnaby Joyce has vowed to protect prime farm land from mining and coal-seam gas, and ensure that an inland railway line connecting Brisbane and Melbourne is built by 2026.

Mr Joyce said he would maintain his steadfast support for protecting prime farmland from mining and CSG, despite having a close friendship with influential mining magnates. Billionaire Gina Rinehart attended Mr Joyce’s election night party. He said prime farmland and aquifers should be “off limits” to mining and CSG, while “people’s quiet enjoyment of houses should be protected”.

In the battle between good agricultural land and mining, farmland should “win every time”. He said he had been “more vociferous than others” in parliament about these issues, and he pledged to remain so in government.

Mr Joyce supported the need for effective and transparent regulation and monitoring of the resources sector.

In regard to CSG production, he said farmers should earn a percentage of the value of production of gas on their land.

Here’s To Clive Palmer

8 Sep
Clive Palmer sings with his mum Nancy, at a Christmas Day lunch hosted for 600 disadvantaged people in 2012. Picture: Glenn Barnes

Clive Palmer sings with his mum Nancy, at a Christmas Day lunch he hosted for 600 disadvantaged people in 2012. Picture: Glenn Barnes

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

– Steve Jobs (Apple Inc)

Watching last evening’s election results TV coverage, I was frankly disgusted, and not a little angered, by the open disrespect, the thinly-disguised ridicule, shown by so many Canberra press gallery “personalities” (looking at you in particular, CH7’s Mark Riley) and major political party apparatchiks, towards neophyte politician Clive Palmer.

Whatever one may think of the man, or his policy ideas — though one very strongly suspects that the mockery is much, much more to do with wealth-envy and body image-driven prejudice against the man, rather than any rational argument against the policies — the simple fact remains that some 6% of the nation’s voters — more than half a million Australians — consciously chose to vote for Palmer United Party candidates as their FIRST preference in this election.

It is a vivid reflection on the mockers’ limited intellectual capacity, lack of self-awareness, and preening arrogance, that they fail to recognise that to mock Clive Palmer and the Palmer United Party, is really to mock the many hundreds of thousands of Australians who chose to vote for him.

As regular readers know, your humble blogger views the world rather differently to most.

Prior to this election, Professor Steve Keen (another “crazy” person) had asked me if I had seen Clive Palmer on the ABC’s ‘Q&A’ program, and urged me to catch it on iView:

A month or so later, I felt further impressed by Clive the man — the human being — in his long form interview with Ellen Fanning on SBS’s ‘The Observer Effect’ (skip to 29:38).

But truth be told, I still had taken no particularly pressing interest in Clive Palmer’s political aspirations, until the mainstream Australian media and major party politicians began a transparently obvious campaign of smearing him.

The Australian newspaper.

Andrew Bolt.

Barnaby Joyce.

And many more.

To quote the late, great George Carlin: I have certain rules I live by. My first rule: I don’t believe anything the government tells me. Nothing. Zero. And I don’t take very seriously the media or the press in this country…“.

There’s another rule I live by too.

If the main stream of worldly thought has taken a particular view — and especially if it is a view that is being pushed strongly — then my default view is that it is almost certainly wrong.

And, against the best interests of the majority of people.

If the “establishment” Coles vs Woolworths political parties, and/or their incestuous friends in the mainstream media, obviously want you to believe that something or someone is “crazy”; if they seem to not want you to consider something too carefully, or with an open mind, then that should be a great big flashing neon sign telling you that you DO want to consider it carefully.

I have not assessed the Palmer United Party’s policies. And frankly, at present I don’t much care if they are (in my own opinion, for whatever that is worth) any good or not.

What I do care about, is that everyone — and especially everyone who can attract well over half a million first preference votes — is given a free and fair opportunity to be heard, without being mocked, ridiculed, cut off, badgered, smeared, or subjected to smarmy “rolled-eyes” treatment.

Whether they are “nuts”, or (far more likely) not.

Here’s to the “crazy” ones …

“As A Nation We Are Owning Less But Owing More”

12 Jul

A superb, insightful op-ed from Barnaby Joyce in the Canberra Times:

GrainCorp may be purchased by Archer Daniel Midland. Photo: Natalie Behring

GrainCorp may be purchased by Archer Daniel Midland. Photo: Natalie Behring

To be a strong nation, we must focus on core beliefs

What do you believe in? What would you give your political career up over, rather than compromise?

If politics is the jousting of social clubs, then a politician can be anything on any day, which is a little dangerous. Have we now such a greater fascination with form over substance that it has really become a quasi thespian frolic devoid of Lincoln, Churchill and Julius Caesar.

Are we just minnows usurping the space that would be better returned to the page three babe in a bikini? Is that who we are, a people who as a nation are owning less but owing more?

There has got to be a political spine that the nation stands on, a set of principles that hurt because you stand by them: family as traditionally proposed, even if it’s not your personal reality; small business, the farmers and the shops, despite the lubricious entrapment of economic policy, a policy that has a tendency to favour the large over the small and in many instances the external over the domestic.

The mining boom is waning, prices are falling, our debt is rising and our economy cannot put its hand to an international champion that is domestically owned. BHP is majority foreign-owned, Rio is not even based here anymore. There is no international agricultural champion that is Australian-owned.

If Graincorp is purchased by Archer Daniel Midland, we will have yet another impediment to becoming the agricultural powerhouse of South East Asia. Under the current conditions our debt both public and private is higher than it ever has been and getting worse so our economic bible has taken us to a peculiar religious experience.

Our belief in a global rule book is going to be challenged by a new Asian reality that gives scant regard to wishes but exploits our weaknesses. Our terms and conditions will be just ours, as seen this week when Yancoal stepped away from their Foreign Investment Review Board conditions.

After a mining boom we should be flush with funds, instead we are $258 billion in gross debt and conducting an increasingly desperate search for what will take the place of mining. Maybe live exports because we have excelled there!

China is creating a deeper pool of offshore liquidity as it moves to replacing the US dollar as the global reserve currency. That is a global game-changer and, if we are not fully versed in all the ramifications of that massive power shift we will be in a long term strategic disadvantage.

All this is happening but what is the political debate about? Kevin Rudd managing the process of how Rudd got rid of Gillard, a slew of new ministers from treasury to agriculture with little or no expertise in their new portfolios, a tawdry attempt to politicise indigenous recognition when nothing but bipartisan goodwill has been shown on this issue thus far.

What we can take out of the indigenous recognition issue is, in the history of humankind and economics benevolence takes a backseat to greed. This is the reality of human nature which we ignore at our peril.

Europeans basically dispossessed and exploited the resources that had belonged to indigenous Australians. In a more complicated form that process is still at foot but it is just being conducted by different parties in a more clandestine form. It is naïve to think a policy desire that relies on international relations can be delivered to the detriment of that specific external nation.

Here is my point: when you look at the deeper issues, the more relevant issues that are vital to our nation’s future today, they are not the ephemeral issues that Mr Rudd appears to be engaged with.

Mr Rudd has not changed. He is a man of media, earnestly delivered with sometimes flawed and brash statements.

Whether he has the competency to guide our nation over the longer term is unlikely on previous form.

Barnaby is right.

“When You Are Busting For A Pizza” – Barnaby’s Valedictory

1 Jul

From Barnaby Joyce’s office (my bold emphasis added) –

Senate Valedictory Statement
Wednesday, 26 June 2013

You will have to give me some latitude tonight because, on the other side of the building, we have what is obviously of momentous effect to our nation, in that we are about to go through the process of changing prime ministers again, we have the State of Origin on television, and I have just listened to a speech by Pliny the Elder. It reminds me very much of what the Grateful Dead said when they came on between The Who and Jimi Hendrix. They said they were the most forgettable act at Woodstock, and I think I will be too.

I have not written a speech, because there has been so much that should be in it that I could not really do it justice. But it has been a great honour to be a part of this collegiate atmosphere which is the Senate. It has been an incredible honour to represent Australia, to wear this pin—as I always have—in my lapel, and be one of 76 Australians who have the right to go beyond the bar and come into this chamber and vote. That honour comes with immense responsibilities—immense responsibilities, because it determines the texture and nature and culture of our nation. We are reflections of that nature and its diversity.

I would like to acknowledge, most importantly, my colleagues around the chamber and the work that they have done. Although you might not presume it, I hold you in the highest respect. There are people that I have worked with, and, without mentioning all, I just wanted to mention a few—not the ones you would suspect—for the certain things that they take to this chamber. As we go around, and in no particular order, I would always like to acknowledge the work that people such as Senator John Faulkner have done—the fact that he has always held this chamber in respect. He is a person of incredible decency, a person that I do not necessarily agree with on virtually anything, but you always knew that he took the job seriously, that he held the office with respect, that he added to the office and that he was the person you could trust.

I would like to thank the vitality that Senator Doug Cameron has, and the fact that he is always getting rolled on everything—but not tonight. Tonight, Dougie wins! I would like to thank—and I really mean this—the work rate that is shown by people such as Rachel Siewert. Senator Siewert and I started at the same time and I have always looked across and thought, ‘Now there is a person who is always doing their homework.’ They are always across it and not acknowledged in the form that they should be for the immense work they do. Behind me is Senator Nick Xenophon. When you are busting for a pizza and you need someone to go out with, someone to bounce a few ideas off, someone you can hold in your confidence, Nick Xenophon is the person that you recognise.

Obviously, I would have to go through my own team. Not only have I had the chance to be a senator, but I have had the chance to work with an incredible team, a team that for our own part, have never leaked—and that should be advice to some on the other side. It is not that we did not have our differences. At times we did. But we always worked together in a form of collegiate experience. It was a representation within the National Party that I had, and I loved it. There was me as a little old bush accountant, I had Fiona as a farmer, I had Wacka as an ex-shearer, I had Bozzie as a paint brush salesman and I had Nige—who is not here—who was a fisherman. We managed to work together in such a way as to do the job of the representation of the people of our respective states and, most specifically, the people of regional Australia. There is also Bridget McKenzie who has now climbed to the rank of wanting to be on every possible committee that has ever been devised in this building.

There are so many others of my Liberal party colleagues that I would like to acknowledge. I would like to acknowledge them all, but time does not permit. But I would like to make special mention of those with the courage to stand up on issues where they get derided, because I have had that experience myself. So I have great empathy for people such as Cory Bernardi. I have great empathy, as I have said, for the tenacity of Bill Heffernan. When he was not haunting me and trying to track me down, he was generally focused on something that was going to bring about a better outcome for regional Australia. It is my colleagues from Queensland, most importantly, Bretto—Brett Mason—because every day is fun if Brett Mason is there. Everything is always about looking to the better angels of the people that he is with. With Macka, it is his parochialism for North Queensland—not that North Queenslanders are parochial—and the representation of that. George has perfected the form of the erudite salesman for the coalition, and, with his work as the shadow Attorney-General, he will make a great Attorney-General of this nation.

These were people at the start, and I had a very peculiar start.

People talk about doing the James Bond act, and it has been done before when the National Party tried to win back the Senate seat. It was a time when nobody gave us a chance. It is so confronting when not one paper writes you up as having a prospect of winning back a Senate seat that had been previously lost. We were up against everybody from the Greens to Pauline Hanson, from the Labor Party to the Democrats, from One Nation—and because we had to stand on our own barrel—to John Howard. They were all campaigning for their turf, and into that environment we had to try to win. When we did win it was an amazing experience. From that I did carry a sense of combativeness, which I have probably expressed a range of times. If Senator Humphries was the trendsetter for crossing the floor, I can assure you I verge on Coco Chanel. It was the time to make sure, in that iteration, that the National Party never lost that position again. We made sure that we were relevant to the people who had elected us.

I would also like to reflect on the people who have supported me so well through that path. They are here tonight. It is incredibly humbling for me to see Lenore Johnson from Longreach. Lenore and I basically drove a bus around Queensland numerous times. We thought it was a huge hit if we got on a community radio station. We thought that was really cutting the mustard. Lenore has been my friend, guide and philosopher for so many years, with Bill Taylor, and with Denise Jacks, who is also here. These people are like gold. They are called branch members and they are like gold because they are the ones that carry you along. There are so many people’s names that I could go through. I can see Lou Edwards and Bruce McIver, President of the LNP. I call these people friends because we work together in a team as friends. We could always trust each other’s confidences as we went through the difficult times and the not-so-difficult times as we combined two different parties into one organisation with all the contentions that that involved.

During the election campaign of trying to reclaim this Senate seat, you had to make every item work on your behalf. I remember at one stage being in Paul Neville’ seat and I saw an opportunity. We were at an air show and I saw a camera crew filming a skydive which was about to happen, and I knew that I had to insert myself into play between that skydiver and that camera crew because that is how I would get coverage, so I did. I said to my colleagues, ‘Guys, I’m going to ask these people for their vote, and just watch this.’ So, I looked up and I saw two dots come out of the plane. As they got closer I noted that they had, obviously, lycra on and were coming down at a rate of knots and, as they were coming down, I thought, ‘This will work well.’ As they got closer I saw that it was mottled lycra of a pinkish colour. As they got even closer I noticed that one of the lycra-people had something that looked awfully like a penis—they were nude! They landed, and they did not particularly want to meet a politician. They most certainly did not want to meet a camera crew, and I do not think they ever voted for me. These are part and parcel experiences of being a senator.

During this time I have had some great staff. I have never asked my staff which way they vote. They vote whichever way they are inclined; it is their right. I have always believed absolutely in the liberty of the individual and their expression of how they vote. I do not know, but I think I have crossed the floor 19 times or something, and if you add up some others it gets into the high 20s. That is important because we are in a chamber that is supposed to express the nation’s freedom, and if we do not have it, then who does have it? Where does that freedom reside? This is no longer, to be honest, a states’ house, but it should be. I thought it would be a states’ house but it is not. It is a house made up of party bodies. If it were a states’ house we would sit as states and not as political parties, so there must be other virtues to this house. I think one of the important ones is that there must be the right of philosophical freedom, of your capacity to express your views, as ardent as they are, you should have the right to do it. If your argument is not sustainable, then you will be torn to pieces by right of argument but not by right of intimidation. That is what this place should provide.

I remember Karen Lee, who came to me from the Democrats, and was my chief of staff at one stage. I am pretty sure that if Karen had voted for me she would not have voted for my party. We had a good working relationship and she would always make me aware that you have to know how to step off your left and your right if you are going to make your way through. I have had some brilliant other staff members. I can see Matt Canavan who is going to be a senator for Queensland. He will be a great contributor to the debate in this chamber, and he has already earned himself laurels around this chamber. I have had Scottie Buchholz who obviously is a typical representative of the other chamber—oh, there he is! It has been a joy to be able to work with these people and see their careers progress. I would like to make special mention of the staff members who were there day after day. Alanna Brosnan who started with me from day 3 and is still with me today. Hayley Winks, who is now Haley Wildman, who left and came back, so we must be doing something right. She is a person who could get you in and out of purgatory or in and out of hell. She is the most incredible person who can organise someone’s life. They have all of my bank account details—the whole lot—so I will never sack them!

I want to acknowledge Raelene McVinish, Robyn Mills and Sam Muller. This is a great story. Sam Muller went for an interview with us when our plane landed at Toowoomba. She got on. I said, ‘The plane is taking off; you will have to come with me for the interview.’ By the time we got to Dalby her dog had just about given up trying to keep up with the plane! We got back to Toowoomba and I said, ‘You’ve got the job,’ and she’s been there ever since. These are the sorts of people I have in my office. There is Deborah Dennis and Jenny Swan. As you would note, the vast majority of my staff have been ladies. I am thankful for that because they take the harder edge off so much of what I say and do.

Some of the formative debates probably left people a little bit perplexed. I know I had a lot of friends on the right when we took on the ETS. We took on the ETS when the polling said only seven per cent of people agreed with our position. But with tenaciousness dedication and support from Senator Boswell and so many others we managed to change the position of the National Party and change the position of the coalition. And then we changed the position of the nation. That shows that every person in this chamber is given the keys to affect the nation, at times against impossible odds. If you wish to do it, you can, but you must have the fortitude to pursue that course. And that right should be yours, because it is vital for our nation that you have it.

The Birdsville amendment is something that I worked on with Frank Zumbo—a great guy—to try and reinvest in the liberty of the individual as expressed in small business, because small business is where you can be who you really wish to be, where you do not have to follow the corporate manual, where you can set up the time that you come to work and the time that you leave, where the sweat of your brow is reflected in your bank balance and you are not guided by others. Therefore it must be precious and something that we must always stand behind.

I acknowledge the corporate interests that come in here and say that that is not the case. They always try to cajole us into moving away from the protection of the rights of the individual. But we must stand behind those small businesses because they are the powerhouses that are the expression of the philosophies that we hold in this chamber. And I believe those philosophies are held, in many instances, by senators from both sides.

There is more room to move on that issue, and we must go into that space to battle for the things that I spoke about in my maiden speech—such as the over-centralisation of the retail market—and that we do not find excuses to remove ourselves from that battle. We need to step into that space and say, ‘Big business is great. It has a role—and congratulations to it!—but it must not compromise the rights of individuals in the expression of their freedom in that space.

The nation has to take the next step. I have been very lucky to have been part of the process of being deputy chair of the dams committee, as we move the nation into what is our new horizon—our new agenda. We have to make that next step because the world is changing around us. We say we live in the Asian century but we have to start understanding what it is that we are going to do in that area. If we are going to survive in the service industry it is going to be difficult, considering many of the people we will compete with—because the internet is ubiquitous—will not necessarily by in Sydney and Brisbane but will be in Singapore, Taipei and Shanghai. And those people will be on a lower wage structure than ours. And to be honest, their standard of education in many areas is now higher than ours. The standard of English in Singapore is better than our English, and we are supposed to speak English! And as well as English they speak Bahasa, Cantonese and Mandarin.

So we must read into this Asian century what it actually means. We must understand that other nations are more proximate to the major markets. And we must understand that in many instances they have developed trade agreements which give them greater access to the world they live in.

So, where do our strengths lie? We have been blessed in this nation with mineral wealth and agricultural potential, and we have to make sure that we do not lose sight of our strengths. Sure, the others will grow. They will grow in the tertiary sector. We acknowledge that. But we must not lose sight of our strengths because, as any accountant will tell you, you must not lose sight of your strengths.

I was instructed in my accountancy by another gentleman who is here today—Phil Maltby, who I started with. Through that form of accountancy I carried certain fears. I had two groups of people that I was always very aware of—the ones who were the roaring successes and the ones who were the unmitigated failures. The rest were kind of irrelevant. The roaring successes and the unmitigated failures had one thing in common—their capacity or the lack of capacity to manage money. That is why I am almost apoplectic about our nation’s debt. I have watched it and watched it because it concerns me deeply. If you do not manage debt, debt will manage you. It will become your master. The hardest task master you will ever have is trying to pay off debt.

I acknowledge the work of my parents who instructed me in that. Marie and Jim are here today. I can see my daughters there as well. My parents were not parsimonious but they were most definitely frugal. They made you respect the dollar. They made you account for what you did. They made you note that the money you spent was the sheep that you would have to shear, the steer that you could sell. And money can be saved by being completely diligent about how money is spent around the property. That stayed with me. So when I saw our nation going down a path where we were getting ourselves further and further into debt I remembered the experience of working under Phil Maltby and others, and how hard it is to pay it all back. That task will be before us in the future. It will be a massive task. I firmly believe that none of the people in this chamber—none of us—will be here by the time we have got on top of the debt we currently have. And I find that to be an incredible indictment and legacy for our nation.

On other issues, on sideline issues, I hope that in the way I have conducted myself I have brought a form of pragmatism into how we see things.

There is no such thing as a free trade agreement. There are things euphemistically called free trade agreements, but there is no such thing as a free trade agreement. The world works pragmatically. It is ruthless. It is governed by commerce. We have to also acknowledge where we are. We call BHP the big Australian . It is not; it is 60 per cent foreign owned. We say Rio is another Australian company. It is not; it is majority foreign owned. The biggest farm in Australia is foreign owned. If you look around the skyscrapers and look for the neon sign that is a reflection of the Australian owned international champion—what is it? Where does our success lie if all the international champions are someone else’s international champions? We must deal with them, and they will be part of an open marketplace.

But we must realise that it is not selfish to want to have one of our own. It is actually wise and diligent, if we want to be a strong nation—and we must be a strong nation—to have our own champions in our own country. I do not see that happening. I see us more and more becoming the servants of other people. We romanticise it, but we will be working predominantly for others. What we must do is create a culture to create our own champions. The latest iteration of that, obviously, is ADM and GrainCorp. We say we are going to live in the agricultural century. Well, where is our international agricultural champion? Which one is it going to be?

I just want to remind the people on my own side of three issues that they probably disagreed with me on. Much to the disgust of so many of my colleagues, I supported David Hicks getting a proper trial, I strongly believed, and I was guided by my mother, that a person deserves their day in court, that we cannot abscond from the legal process. It is for people to be proven guilty or innocent by the legal process, not by our beliefs. Obviously VSU got me lots of friends, but not on this side of the chamber. That was an issue about the provision of services to regional universities—that is how we saw it. We saw it as being about football fields and obviously, the other one was the West Papuan boat issue. We are the neighbours of West Papua, so when the West Papuans turn up here it is different to when other people decide to make their way here through myriad countries.

Why do I bring these issues up? It is to try, as I leave, to reinvigorate your beliefs as senators, no matter which side of the chamber you are on. If you have a belief that you strongly hold, that might not be the belief of the colleagues beside you, it is your right—in fact, it is your duty—to stand up and say something about it and to express your view. If you do not, you are letting yourself down and, worse than that, you are letting your nation down.

I have enjoyed my time here. My final thanks go to the most important group. I want to thank deeply, with the most conviction I can possibly muster, my wife, Natalie. Natalie is a person who shuns the public spotlight. She does not want to be the politician’s wife. She was dragged there, unfortunately, by a person who wanted to be a politician. She has been both mother and father to my children as they have been brought up. Everybody says what a good job we have done. We did not do much of a job at all—she did a very good job. I apologise to Natalie for all the times that I have spent away and for the times that, basically, I have been the absent father and the absent husband. I was reminded that, in the first six months of last year, I spend eight days in my own bed. Natalie would get to the end of the year and remind me how many days I had been home, and it would be 25 or 28. When I had a good year, it was 42. As I was out saving the planet, Nat was managing the house. I apologise to Natalie and also to my daughters, Bridgette, Julia, Caroline and Odette, for not being there as much as I should have been.

Likewise, you cannot do this job without a support crew. To see the Travis family here tonight is to see an incredible part of that support group. When you live in a country town, you can just go to someone and say, ‘We’re dropping our kids off.’ Sometimes we did not come back for weeks.

The final group is obviously my National Party colleagues, who are around me here. This is going to be, I believe, a momentous time. We are coming to an election. The Australian people, whatever choice they make, will make the right one, and then once more we will be servants of those people. I thank you all for your tolerance of me over so many years. If I am successful, if I do the right job and walk humbly with the people of New England, I may get the opportunity to represent this great nation in another place. But I will always hold in fondness and admiration my time here. I hope I have not disgraced you too much. All the best and God bless.

Gutless Wonders

26 Jun


BREAKING UPDATE: Tony Windsor too. Good news for Barnaby. More below.

From the Australian:

FEDERAL independent MP Rob Oakeshott, whose crucial support helped Labor form the minority government after the 2010 election, has announced he is quitting politics.

The federal member for Lyne has told his local newspaper he will not contest the September 14 election, saying he wants to spend more time with his family and had achieved his goals in parliament.

“Now is the moment,” he told the Macleay Argus.

“I have done everything I said I was going to do and done the best I can.”

Mr Oakeshott, who held the NSW north-coast seat of Lyne for five years, denied his decision was prompted by fear of losing at the upcoming federal election.



From the Australian:

THE two independents who backed Julia Gillard personally to form a minority Labor government – Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott – are bowing out of politics.

Congratulations BJ.

Presumably you’re now a shoe-in to win New England.

“Sympathy Does Not Vote These Days”

21 Jun

Barnaby Joyce writes for the Canberra Times:

With merely one week to go in this Parliament, a party based on politicians from the school of union organisation cannot organise the numbers either to effect a change in leadership or to dispel the prospect of one. In the final fortnight we have had a rolling Labor soap opera, which will do little to endear Australia to the party’s management potential.

It is as if the Labor Party has frozen in the headlights of the nation’s gaze, unable to extricate itself from either the Gillard-inspired coup or the relentless Rudd retaliation. The result is a bitter, personal feud that has festered into a full-blown brawl.

Three years ago Paul Howes, the head of the Australian Workers Union, decided that he was ”the Australian voting public” and he went out and unelected the elected Prime Minister on Lateline. A few months later he said ”it was probably an error”. Just then, Paul ”The Australian Voting Public” Howes popped up on Sky News to tell the Australian people that his Prime Minister must stay there.

I have come to the conclusion that instead of voting for the Prime Minister, I should be voting for whatever office Paul Howes occupies. The problem I have got is that this ballot is stacked. Now this is starting to sound like a Joseph Conrad novel; it’s certainly not the Australia that Mum and Dad told me about.

This week brings the shortest day of the year for the lowest ebb in our Parliament, and from here we head to spring, where we’ll see a new Parliament, new members, regrets and recriminations. The batting order is going to change and the tenants of the parliamentary offices will be shuffled and dealt. The next week is going to be crucial for Labor.

It will be certain political decimation to stay the course and the reality of the Queensland and NSW elections will be the fate of federal Labor if they cannot break out into adulthood in the next month. If you grasp for the bitter end, it is bitter; sympathy does not vote these days. It is like expecting greater attention from students five minutes before the end of school.

Read the whole article here.

Gillard Plays The Philosophical Civil War Card

14 Jun

Barnaby Joyce writes for the Canberra Times:

Line crossed as Gillard cracks under election strain

It is the time when former senator Steve Fielding dressed up as a bottle, it is the time when former senator Len Harris dressed up as a knight in armour, it is the time when former Senator Andrew Bartlett went bungee jumping and it is the time when current Prime Minister Gillard gave a speech on blue ties and abortion.

It is less than 100 days to an election. This is a time when those behind get jumpy and desperately try anything to get a disengaged electorate to listen.

What is different this time is that it is not minor party leaders jumping for the spotlight, it is a sitting Prime Minister.

If the Prime Minister wants to play the philosophical civil war card, because the electorate and her own party have given up on her, then she will achieve nothing more than the disdain of the electorate at the end of her political career. To say that people were disgusted and gobsmacked by the pure unadulterated parochialism and naivety of this ploy is an understatement.

The vast majority in politics get furious when conscience issues are used for personal political appeal. When debate is called for on the sensitive issue of abortion, it is a conscience issue that both sides co-ordinate together on bipartisan approaches for either side of the debate.

There are very strict, but unwritten, rules of engagement and Ms Gillard broke the lot. Virtually all people have strong and indelible views on this, but how many have pulled this arrow from their quiver during this campaign? None but Ms Gillard.

The anarchy that has beset the nation is further illuminated by Mr Tony Windsor, who states that he will only work with Ms Gillard. One could be so bold to suggest that the nation might come first before personalities.

If Mr Windsor does pull the trigger, that is the end of the referendum into financial recognition of local government. Section 128 of the constitution requires that a law to amend the constitution be passed not less than two months before the referendum. On the current election timetable that law must be passed by June 25 because pre-polling opens on August 26.

Therefore, any election before September 7, in effect, would mean that this referendum would not occur. I thought the recognition of Local Government was part of the independent’s, so-called, “deal”.

As the government has basically ceased operating, it goes to show the good job the bureaucrats do as the wheels of service to the public continue. The issue is more with the private sector.

This nine-month Labor caravan of confusion, otherwise known as the 2013 election, has destroyed business confidence. As National Australia Bank chairman Michael Chaney pointed out on Tuesday, Labor’s decision to hold such a long election campaign has created a perfect storm of consumer pessimism and economic instability.

A lack of business confidence translates into a lack of investment, and an inability for the economy to change gears. As the mining boom tapers off, we need other sectors of the economy – like agriculture, construction and tourism – to pick up.

But no one is going to take the risks necessary to make this change with the “who knows what they’ll do next” crowd that we have in Canberra.

We need a fluid economy. Instead we have a deadlocked government. The general public has gone from not listening to the Prime Minister to disdain.

If you watch people’s faces at waiting rooms, there descends a set look and audible groans as Ms Gillard creates a parody of her office on the rolling news coverage.

We are a better nation than this. As John Howard used to point out there are many more things that unite us than divide us. We have been blessed to generally have leaders that have stressed consensus over division.

Bob Hawke was another example. Indeed, when Julia Gillard first became Prime Minister she claimed that she wanted to govern in the consensus style of Hawke. That’s just another promise that she has failed to keep.

It is disappointing that people, complete strangers, have no hesitation in offering free character assessments of the Prime Minister of Australia. It is not that they disagree with her beliefs, it is the way she keeps returning to the bank of public trust and discerning acumen and dragging it through the mud.

Water Is Political: Barnaby

13 Jun

Following is Barnaby Joyce’s keynote address to The Quest for Water Efficiency Conference, hosted by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, Melbourne, 12 June 2013:

Keynote Address: Politics and Water Policy

You can’t understand water unless you understand politics. This is true the world over. The Chinese character for “politics” is derived from root words meaning flood control.

Water is political because it has all the elements that make politics real for people. It involves competing uses, trade-offs, it does not respect state or international boundaries and humankind has been engaged in a centuries-long battle to control water flows against the random destruction of nature.

All of those elements have been in place in Australia over the past decade, as we have swung from our worst drought to the most destructive floods in our history.

Today, I want to argue that while we have got many things right in this country, the politics of water has at times let Australia down in the management of its water resources.

It has become fashionable to talk about the “consumption” of water, mostly in reference to its over-consumption. Indeed, in the Murray-Darling irrigation is referred to as a “consumptive” use of water, in comparison to the environmental uses of water that are apparently more benign.

We use the word consume without thinking too hard about its relevance to water. Water is not like other products or commodities. Burning coal means there is less coal to use, refining oil brings us closer to peak oil but using water does not reduce the amount of water there is in the world.

We only have one allotment of water, and that was delivered to us 4.4 billion years ago. There is no more water being created or destroyed. As the author Charles Fishman has observed, every glass of water you drink has had a rich history, most likely it has been through the digestive systems of dinosaurs, other animals and perhaps other humans before arriving in your glass.

So water cannot be used or consumed, and it is misleading to prosecute rice growers, cotton farmers or urban gardeners as consuming too much. The problem with that analysis is that it implies that the use of water to grow rice in Deniliquin, takes water away from people being able to water their garden in Melbourne but that is not the case.

Like politics, all water policy, is local.

Pointing this out does not mean there is not water scarcity in some areas, or that there are not competing uses of water. But what is important is that the lessons and issues regarding water in one area cannot easily be translated to other areas.


The Murray-Darling debate is a perfect example of this. There is a too common view that the Murray-Darling is a system of interconnected garden hoses. There is a misconception that you just need to add water to fix the Murray-Darling’s problems and it doesn’t matter all that much where that water came from.

It was most evident in the controversy that engulfed Cubbie Station for many years. Queenslanders were blamed for the problems of the Lower Lakes. And the reverse was true too. The Lower Lakes were blamed for all of the problems of the Murray-Darling.

Cubbie is just 200 metres above sea level; it is more than 1500 kilometres from the mouth of the Murray. Water that travels from Cubbie to the Great Australian Bight must travel this entire flat distance over sun-drenched areas and thirsty plains. The CSIRO estimates that, in normal conditions, just 18 per cent of the water from the Balonne system, where Cubbie is located, makes its way to the mouth of the Murray.

It reached its zenith when the Adelaide Advertiser declared on its front page that the 2011 Brisbane floods had led to three years of water being wasted! The claim was that the floodwaters that had flowed into Moreton Bay could have been put into the Western Corridor pipeline, sent up the range to Toowoomba, put in the Condamine and magically meandered its way to South Australia.

Putting aside the laws of physics, the laws of irony were breached first. Here was an article arguing that water was being wasted because it was left to flow out to sea near Brisbane, when it could have been, at great cost, sent more than 2000 kilometres away, to … flow out to sea near Adelaide.

Such thinking has real policy outcomes too. It has led to some disastrously wasteful decisions on water recovery in the Murray-Darling. For instance, the government spent $23 million buying Toorale station, shutting down 4 per cent of Bourke’s economy and 10 per cent of Bourke’s rating base. Barely any of the water from Toorale has been delivered to the environment because an environmental assessment conducted after the purchase concluded that the water storages could not be removed without damaging the wildlife that rely on the artificial water storages to survive. As reported by The Australian, Toorale has effectively become Australia’s biggest and most expensive birdbath.

Like in the Toorale purchase, too often governments ignore the wider economic and social costs of their decisions. This should be no surprise. Governments are simply maximising their returns like anyone else would. So it should be no surprise that when water needs to be recovered they would choose the cheapest option available.

There are really two options to save water for the environment in the Murray-Darling.

First, we can buy the water back from licence holders, take the water out of production and return it to the environment. This option does reduce water use in rural Australia. It will reduce food production and mean fewer jobs and economic development in regional towns.

Second, we can invest in more efficient ways of using water, thus being able to return water to the environment without reducing the amount of food produced or regional economic activity.

Water buybacks are cheaper. They typically cost about $2000 per megalitre, whereas infrastructure investment can cost anywhere from $2000 to $5000 per megalitre.

So it should be no surprise that a cash-strapped government has gone for the cheaper option. So far Labor has invested just 10 per cent of the funds available for water infrastructure investment. In contrast, it has spent 70 per cent of the funds available to buyback water.

The Coalition believes that this approach is too skewed. Governments should be made to consider the wider economic and social impacts of their decisions. If society would like to take 2750 gigalitres of water out of agricultural production, then it should be willing to face up to the full social cost of that change, including the loss of jobs and regional development.

Requiring at least some of the water recovery to come through infrastructure investment makes governments face up to those costs.

That is why the Coalition has proposed capping water buybacks at 1500 gigalitres. The government has already recovered around 1250 gigalitres through water buybacks. That means that the maximum additional buyback that Murray-Darling communities would face would be an additional 250 gigalitres.

It should be noted that this is the government’s own water recovery strategy too. At the moment, they plan to get 1500 gigalitres of the required water through buybacks. It is just that the Labor Party, unlike the Coalition, will not commit to this target.

Last year, the Coalition tried to amend some of the legislation enabling the Basin Plan to insert this cap as a legally binding rule. The Government did not support us, and neither did the country independents, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott.

We believe that a cap on buybacks will provide the 2.1 million people who live in the Murray-Darling Basin the certainty to get on and plan for their futures. While the threat of future water buybacks is there, that cannot happen.

We are constantly told that there are enormous opportunities for Australia to export food to the rising middle class. Given that the Murray-Darling produces 40 per cent of our agriculture, that area has to be part of any strategy to boost exports to Asia.

How will we take those opportunities though if we won’t give agricultural communities the certainty of how much water will be available for productive use? How much mining investment do you think we would attract if we said, we will sell you this tenement but we will decide annually how much coal you can export each year, and that amount may change depending on the political environment of the time?

This is especially so in water where many people have lost trust in this government to manage the $10 billion the Coalition put aside for the Murray-Darling in 2007. In 2011, a bi-partisan committee, chaired by Tony Windsor, concluded that:

The Committee heard of grave mistrust of this department across Basin communities resulting from the failure of the department to identify and respond to community concerns on a range of issues. In addition, this department has demonstrated a consistent failure to deliver water programs, including strategic water buyback, which is in the best interests of productive communities. This department should no longer be responsible for delivering these programs.

Remember that this comment was not a partisan one; it was signed off by Liberal, National, Labor and Independent members. It is often remarked that overseas investors have a more positive view of Australian agriculture than domestic investors. But if they can’t trust their own government, why would they invest?

Northern Australia and Dams

In my view the same blindness to economic and social impacts has contributed to the fact that Australia has not built a dam for more than 20 years. Bert Kelly once remarked that every time he heard funding for a dam announced, he could feel an election coming on. You could almost say the reverse now. Every time you hear a proposed dam being scrapped, you can feel an election coming on.

There are some good reasons why we are not building more dams in the more developed parts of Australia. For one, where we have developed the best dam sites have been taken. For instance, this was evident in the Queensland Government’s proposal to build a dam at Traveston on a geological fault line in an area that would have delivered a dam with an average depth of only around 5 metres. A more than $2 billion cost for a yield of only around 100 megalitres was not value for money.

But there have been some very poor reasons why we have not built dams.

Another reason we have not built dams is because we were told that it would not rain again thanks to climate change. Those predictions have been far off the mark, and a study the other day now claims that climate change will lead to more flooding in the Murray-Darling not less.

Another of those reasons is that we have not looked at the local costs and benefits of building dams. As I said above, all water issues are local issues. But we have been too ready to take the advice on dam building from other countries, or more developed areas of Australia, and apply them to the entire country; such as when areas of our country that are not as developed still have lots of potential for a variety of water supply options. No one option, be it dams or something else, should be pre-emptively vetoed.

That is why the Coalition established the Dams and Water Management Task Group that I am the Deputy Chair of. That group has travelled to every state and territory in the country looking at potential sites and investigating water supply options. A leak earlier this year suggested that the Coalition is going to build 100 dams but we are not about to let 100 flowers boom.

More than 100 potential dam sites have been suggested to us but only a fraction of these will ever be built or even considered. Some of the suggestions are just ideas, others are more substantial but have not been looked at since the days of Surveyor-Generals and Public Works departments. A lot more work will need to be done on most before a dam can be built. All the more reason we should start now.

Water is wealth and dams put water away when it rains to ensure that it is available in drier times. Dams throughout Australia help produce Australia’s food, support towns and communities, produce the majority of Australia’s renewable energy, act as an essential input to our manufacturing and mining industries and help mitigate the impacts of floods.

Australia experiences a highly variable rainfall climate and therefore the use of dams to moderate the impacts of this cycle are more important here than in most other countries. For example, Melbourne’s water supply system has 10 times the per capita storage volume of London’s water supply system for this very reason.

In 1980 Australian dams could hold enough water to supply Australia’s water needs for almost seven years. Today, our dams can hold enough water to store less than six years of water supplies. If no new dams are built, Australia’s storage capacity will fall to below four years’ of supply by 2050.

The Coalition will announce its response to the work of the Dams task group closer to the election but some early findings are clear.

Australia can make better use of its water resources. While Australia is the driest inhabited continent in the world, more water is available for use per person in Australia than in North America, Western Europe or Asia.

Australia uses just 6 per cent of its available water, compared to a world average of 9 per cent. Most of that water use goes to produce food and Australia produces enough food to feed 60 million people worldwide. If we increased our water use to equal the world average, Australia could feed almost 100 million people — even before accounting for any future increases in agricultural productivity.

But doing so will take the real vision to invest in our water resources to help the world deal with the future food task. The world population is set to grow by more than 2 billion people in the next half century. As a result, world cereal production will need to increase by three 3 tonnes a year and meat production would need to increase by 200 million tonnes per year.

Achieving any substantial increase in Australia’s agricultural production will need to involve investment in more irrigation. Irrigation generates 50 per cent of Australia’s agricultural profit from less than 2 per cent of our agricultural land. Irrigation produces food more efficiently and in doing so benefits the environment because more food is produced using less land.

That is not to ignore that too much water is used in some parts of Australia. As discussed earlier, over a number of decades, water has been over-allocated in the Murray-Darling, more than 40 per cent of the water available in the Murray-Darling is used for productive purposes and that will be reduced to 33 per cent after the implementation of the Basin Plan.

The level of water use in the Murray-Darling cannot be compared to undeveloped parts of Australia, and any attempt to do so is a gross distortion of the facts. For instance, just 5 per cent of our water resources in northern Australia are used, even though 60 per cent of Australia’s water falls there.

In the north of Australia there is significant potential for new water storages.

Those that are anti-development often claim that the soils in northern Australia are too poor, as if anywhere north and west of Brisbane must be a desert. This is simply incorrect. The CSIRO estimates that there is between 5 and 17 million hectares of arable soil in northern Australia. When the task group visited Go-Go Station in Western Australia, we were advised that there was 100,000 hectares of blacksoil on this property alone.

To put these figures in context, Australia only irrigates 2 million hectares across the entire nation.

The Ord is already expanding to more than double its area under irrigation, and future opportunities may lie in the West Kimberley as well, although these will be further away.

In the Northern Territory there are opportunities to expand the use of groundwater. The Northern Territory’s groundwater resources are poorly understood, and it would appear that the current approach errs on the side of caution because of this lack of knowledge.

Off-stream storage has real potential in the Gulf. The Queensland Government recently sold 80,000 megalitres of water in a tender that was over-subscribed in the Flinders catchment.

In north and central Queensland there are plenty of options some of which will be needed to provide more water to the coal industry.

Decisions on urban water

Most of these immediate water needs will be focused on water for agriculture or mining. The CSIRO estimates that most of our capital cities will not need further water supply augmentations for 10 to 15 years. Although there will be exceptions. Darwin’s population is rapidly growing and a response will probably be needed before then.

While that might seem some time off Australia needs to start planning for new water storages now. It can take 10 to 15 years for a dam to progress from concept to construction completion. We need to start planning for new water supply solutions today before it is too late.

The most recent drought put immense strain on Australia’s urban water resources. Dam levels in Sydney and Melbourne fell below 40 per cent, and below 20 per cent in Brisbane. Governments were forced to make rushed decisions to increase water supplies, and over $10 billion was invested in desalination plants to deliver 500 gigalitres of new water. It is partly because of these investments mean that Australia’s major cities have sufficient supply to meet demand for probably the next 15 years.

Yet it is clear now that mistakes were made. Too much was spent unnecessarily on desalination capacity. Only the desalination plants in Perth are being regularly used to supply water needs, while desalination plants in South-East Queensland, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide lie dormant at great cost to water consumers. Water prices have increased by 64 per cent since 2007.

These flawed decisions imposed higher water prices on consumers and potentially cheaper alternatives, such as dams, were ignored or given little consideration.

I don’t want to be too critical of those governments because those decisions were made under political pressure, and no government can afford for a major city to run out of water when facing a drought crisis.

The lesson for us though is a stitch in time saves nine. If we had done the preparation on what should be the future water supply options, then governments could readily evaluate a range of options, rather than jump for those that provided the quickest fix.

That is why the Coalition has committed all infrastructure investments of more than $100 million, that are supported by the Commonwealth, will require an analysis by Infrastructure Australia. That includes the investments that the Coalition will make in dams and other water infrastructure. That approach will be consistent with the National Water Initiative that the former Coalition Government put in place.

The Coalition will also ensure that we conduct feasibility studies now on future water supply options so that we are ready when our future water supplies dwindle. We will have more to say on that in our response to the Dams task group.


As a Senator I have been based in St George for almost eight years. St George is a town that is built on irrigation. A town of no more than 5000 in the district produces more than $500 million of cotton every year, around $200 million in grain and then melons, onions and other produce.

That is all there because we built a dam on the Balonne River and a weir downstream. The result has been a massive increase in productivity.

We are often told that Australia needs to do more to increase its productivity. Well, irrigation is a productivity booster. It turns water into “white gold”. Around 50 per cent of the value added in Australian agriculture comes from the 2 per cent of our land that is irrigated.

As a country we have come through the worst drought in our history. Rightly, much of our water policies over that time have focused on managing water shortages and conserving water for the environment.

But we must also recognise that water has more than just environmental uses. Our policies must be balanced to ensure that we protect the environment, develop our economy and sustain those towns and communities that rely on the use of water to survive.

That is why a Coalition Government will invest water efficiency not just buybacks, that is why a Coalition Government will build new dams to open up new areas of our country to agricultural and mining development and that is why a Coalition Government will start planning today to tackle the water shortages that will come in our future.

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