The decision by Tony Windsor to challenge Barnaby Joyce for his old seat of New England has certainly stirred up a hornet’s nest with the Federal director of the Nationals, Scott Mitchell, immediately tweeting:
“While a rambling, relevance deprived @TonyWindsor is grandstanding in CBR, @Barnaby_Joyce is working hard in the electorate of NE.”
Far from Mr Windsor being “relevance-deprived”, it is the National Party which has become irrelevant.
If the Minister for Agriculture and Water, who also happens to be the Deputy Prime Minister, can do nothing to prevent the approval of the Shenhua coal mine on the best agricultural land in the country, the Liverpool Plain, which also happens to be in his electorate, then what use is he?
Mr Windsor rightly described Barnaby Joyce as part of an anachronistic group of conservatives putting the handbrake on the Prime Minister’s reform agenda. I doubt anyone could deny that.
In May last year, in an interview with Andrew Bolt, Barnaby Joyce said:
“Look….I just – I’m always sceptical of the idea that the way that anybody’s going to change the climate – and I’m driving in this morning and we’re driving through a frost – is with bureaucrats and taxes. All that does is….it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. I make you feel guilty so I can get your money and put it in my pocket and send reports backwards and forth to one another.”
This attitude is completely at odds with the National Farmers Federation who, last year, circulated an open letter calling on the Liberal Party to kill off an internal push to derail Australia making meaningful commitments to tackling climate change.
The letter, which describes farmers as being “on the front line of rising temperatures and more extreme weather”, urged the Liberals to resoundingly defeat a climate sceptic motion put forward by WA Liberals Dennis Jensen and Chris Back.
NSW farmer of the year Derek Blomfield, a signatory to the letter, said “As a farmer, I find it really disappointing that this is coming from farmers, especially those in WA who are in line for the worst effects of climate change. I can’t make sense of their actions. I’m not a scientist but I’m pretty sure Brian Mayfield [chairman of the Liberal Party committee pushing the motion] isn’t a scientist either. How many times do we have to go back to the science? Is it until they get the result they want?”
The open letter called for Australia to adopt post-2020 targets that will cut carbon emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2025, and at least 60 per cent by 2030 over 2000 pollution levels, in line with recommendations of the scientific community.
Not only did the commitment made by Turnbull and Hunt at the Paris talks fall far short of that, the NSW Liberal Party’s state council just passed a motion which calls on the government to “arrange and hold public debates/discussions” between scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and “independent climate scientists”.
The motion says the events should cover “the global warming/climate change debate”; “the claims by the IPCC”; and the statement “is all the science settled”.
Not only that, we saw Barnaby Joyce release his Agricultural white paper with virtually no mention of climate change.
The campaign against Mr Windsor kicked off with a vengeance, with angry Coalition voters invading his Facebook page, berating him for having supported Gillard in forming a minority government. They seem to forget that his other choice was to back Abbott who we all know thinks climate change is crap and whose own party dumped less than two years into his stint as a first term PM. As his own Chief of Staff said, he was not up to the job.
When interviewed yesterday, Barnaby Joyce said he hoped the campaign would be respectful, while slipping in several times references to the fact that Mr Windsor profited from selling part of his family farm to a coal mining company to extend an existing mine.
As I wrote about last October, Barnaby is on dangerous territory there due to his purchase of two properties in the Pilliga which are likely to contain significant CSG reserves and which also are very close to the inland rail being pushed by the Nationals. He himself has declared them as a possible conflict of interest on the Register of Pecuniary Interests.
Mr Windsor will fight an uphill battle as Mr Joyce’s campaign will no doubt be funded again by his dear friend Gina Rinehart. We can also expect the Murdoch rags to go into overdrive.
We can only hope that sanity prevails, and Australia can once again benefit from the wisdom and integrity that Mr Windsor, who is beholden to no party, brings to political debate.
Good luck, Tony.