When Barnaby Joyce regained the leadership of the Nationals in June last year, no-one could have been happier than his dear friend and supporter, Gina Rinehart.
She immediately offered to host a party for him. Those VIPs lucky enough to secure an invitation to spend an evening with Barnaby and Gina at her palatial coastal hideaway in Noosa could secure their spot for a mere $10,000 a head.
At a fundraiser for Wide Bay MP Llew O’Brien shortly after their soiree, Barnaby sang Gina’s praises, which Ms Rinehart has graciously shared with us on her website.
Mr Joyce spoke of the LNP’s belief in the importance of the individual to be master of their own game as opposed to being controlled by the state.
He praised the efforts of his long-time “mate”, mining magnate Gina Rinehart, who attended the event.
“Gina is one of the most powerful women in the world,” he said. “If we had more Gina’s we’d have a more powerful nation,” he said.
Barnaby holds a special place in the wallet that occupies the space where Ms Rinehart’s heart should be.
In 2011, Joyce was one of three Coalition MPs flown on Rinehart’s private jet to Hyderabad in India for the wedding of the granddaughter of a coal-mining associate.
In 2013, she donated $50,000 to his election campaign for the lower house seat of New England.
In 2017, pursuant to personal correspondence with Ms Rinehart, Barnaby’s department donated $60,000 towards hosting National Agricultural and Related Industries Day. Imagine his surprise when, at said event, he was named a “champion of farming” and awarded a $40,000 personal cheque from Gina.
After being initially “humbled” and saying he was going to use it to fix up his farm, Barnaby later returned the cheque following a perhaps predictable public backlash.
Gina is not the only mate Barnaby looks after, as revealed by his conversation with irrigators in a Shepparton pub.
Responsibility for water was handed to the Nationals as part of the party’s coalition agreement with the Liberal Party in 2015.
After a Four Corners program showing alleged (must we really keep saying that?) water theft in the Murray-Darling Basin, Joyce rushed to reassure irrigators that he was there to protect their interests.
“We have taken water, put it back into agriculture, so we could look after you and make sure we don’t have the greenies running the show basically sending you out the back door, and that was a hard ask,” he said in the recording.
“A couple of nights ago on Four Corners, you know what that’s all about? It’s about them trying to take more water off you, trying to create a calamity. A calamity for which the solution is to take more water off you, shut more of your towns down.”
In Joyce’s mind, it is the ABC creating the calamity. Tell that to the fish.
According to Barnaby, “One of the most effective forms of recycling of capital is in water infrastructure, because water is wealth and a dam is a bank.”
Even talking about water infrastructure can make some people wealthy.
Take Urannah dam, for example.
In July 2021, Barnaby Joyce issued a press release about delivering funds to keep the idea moving:
“The Australian Government is fully funding the $22.65 million business case and approvals project, which is expected to be completed in mid-2022. The Australian Government also previously committed $3 million to fund a feasibility study for the project.”
In fact, he missed another $2 million grant given to the project by Angus Taylor in 2020.
Without going into exhaustive detail, since 2016, this project has received 4 different grants from 3 different ministers and 3 different funds.
The grants have ostensibly been given to different companies except, via non-transparent funding and subcontracting arrangements, they all come back to Bowen River Utilities – a company that, according to the Guardian, is worth $100 on paper and whose sole director is John Cotter Jr, a former member of the LNP executive and active fundraiser and donor, who employs Jason Frecklington, husband of former Queensland LNP leader Deb Frecklington.
Bowen River Utilities also happens to be the proponent of the Urannah dam though it is unclear how they could possibly come up with the multi-billion dollar price tag to build it. They also have no expertise to do the required studies. Or do they just get $27.65 million of taxpayer funds to do their business case to sell to prospective investors?
Additonal to the dam, the proposal also includes a 22,500 hectare agricultural precinct, as well as water for mining projects and urban areas, and a hydro-electric power station.
Documents submitted by Bowen River Utilities to the federal government for environmental assessment show they have consulted major coalmine operators in the Bowen Basin about buying water from Urannah.
Gina wants more dams, among other things like more land-clearing, special economic zones in northern Australia, the elimination of payroll tax and stamp duty, and for pensioners to be able to fill the labour shortage without losing part of their pension. Always on the lookout for cheap labour, our Gina.
Barnaby and Gina are mates – what Gina wants, Barnaby will find a way to make us pay for.
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