As a young teenager, on lazy Sunday afternoons in Melbourne, I spent much of my time listening to the various debates that took place under the elm trees where the Rod Laver tennis centre now stands.
There were people of reasoned disposition and many, not the full quid’s worth. They debated with various abilities subjects ranging from communism to the existence of God. Because of my youth and inexperience, I was probably not capable of an informed opinion about anything. Most were good for a laugh, and you never took them seriously.
I was more drawn to the political speakers of the Labor and Communist parties, whom I found less confusing than those of the right. They seemed to be able to put things in a perspective that I understood.
Why am I telling you this? Well, you see, oddly enough, I was drawn to the confusion of my youth whilst watching Barnaby Joyce being interviewed by David Speers on Insiders last Sunday. How good, I thought, that his mindset would have fitted in with some of those weirdos of my Sunday afternoon meanderings.
Even as I write, I am inwardly laughing at his incapacity to explain his involvement in this disagreeable attempt by Scott Morrison to subvert the Westminster system of government.
So confusing was this interview that I would describe it thus (to partly borrow the words of the late Dr George Venturini):
“You see, now he is saying that what I thought he said is only a figment of my imagination. That what I think I thought he meant is not what he meant at all.
That when he says something, and I take it to mean one thing, he has the option of saying that what I thought I heard was not what I heard at all.
That it was only my interpretation of what he meant. I mean, did he say what he meant, or did he mean to say what he meant and became confused or was what he meant really what he meant.”
Upon the interviews conclusion, the Insider’s panel tried to put the pieces of a remarkable interview together. I was left knowing that Barnaby had lied about when he knew there were duplicate ministries but just where I wasn’t sure.
His assertion that he sort of knew of Morrison’s ministries grab but didn’t say anything in case Scott might have got upset and taken away a ministry that they shouldn’t have anyway didn’t wash with me at all. It wouldn’t pass the pub test at the local I frequented from time to time.
It wasn’t until three-quarter time during the football that the most perplexing contradictions of his chronology of the Morrison ministry scandal came together thanks to Amy Remeikis in The Guardian.
Amy starts her piece by explaining how confusing Barnaby Joyce was, and I must say I was often left trying to work out what he meant halfway into the question from Speers about Morrison’s ministries grabs. He said he kinda knew but couldn’t explain what “kind of” meant but a little later, he said he didn’t know. I was left wondering what attracts nut jobs like Joyce to the Coalition.
Amy went on to say there were so many inconsistencies and slanted references. She figured that Joyce had arrived there obliquely.
David Speers cleverly asked Joyce when he became aware Morrison had appointed himself resources minister (while Nationals MP Keith Pitt was in the role).
“Obviously I wasn’t aware of it at the start because it happened prior to me coming back as leader, and then over a period of time and discussions to the Pep-11 it became more apparent that the prime minister had greater powers than I initially assumed.”
But then he said that Morrison told him he was sworn in.
Joyce: It worked over a period of time where the prime minister, Scott Morrison, got to a position and said, “I can overrule him.”
Q: Did you say, how can you overrule the minister?
Joyce: Well, he had said he was sworn in, but you just take the decision back to cabinet.
Q: So, he did say he was sworn in as the minister?
Joyce: Look, and I’m not being evasive, I just can’t quite remember exactly where that final statement went.
Q: Hang on, you can’t remember the prime minister saying to you, your National party minister is being overruled here.”
Joyce: I believe he did, right, but if you said, “Tell me exactly the time and place”… I believe he did.
Q: So, you believe Scott Morrison did [tell you].
Joyce: I believe he did, but it happened over a sort of period of time and it came into place before my time. It was not my decision.
‘There is nothing confusing about it, David, listen to me. Keith Pitt was the minister,’ Barnaby Joyce has told the ABC’s Insiders.
But then Joyce didn’t know.
“The discussion that I had with the prime minister was purely around Pep-11. He never went into that he had powers on everything that Keith Pitt could do … He never said to me, ‘I was the minister for resources.’ He never said that to me.”
And there was no conversation, despite Joyce previously saying Morrison had told him he was sworn in:
“How many times do you want to ask me this, David [Speers]? This is like the seventh time,” he said.
“I told you I didn’t know when I came in because the decision was made before me. There was no distinct conversation that happened, [it was] obliquely over a period of time. It only revolved around the Pep-11 decision. The Pep-11 decision was made by the prime minister. It is on file, you can watch it yourself. There is a press conference. What else do you want.”
Q: Who was the responsible minister for resources?
Joyce: Well, it ultimately, it really remained with Keith. It was the Pep-11 decision.
Q: Who was the responsible minister on that decision?
Joyce: Mate, I’ve just gave you the answer. It is ultimately Keith Pitt on everything. It was the Pep-11 decision. Don’t ask me a third time.
Q: Well, I’m still confused, was it Scott Morrison or Keith Pitt?
Joyce: There is nothing confusing about it, David, listen to me. Keith Pitt was the minister, and I’m telling you, there is no trick, hockery pickery trick to this.
But Joyce later says Morrison was the decision maker.
“He actually gave the announcement, David. Do you want anything clearer than that? What else are you looking for, [that] archangel Gabriel was holding his hand? What more do you want?”
Joyce repeatedly tried to change the subject by showing all the intellect of a lying politician. Anything to deflect from what is, to most people, a sombre subject. People shopping at their local IGA store aren’t interested in this stuff. The fact is, when one examines the interview, one might come to the conclusion that Barnaby Joyce was lying.
Joyce seemed very interested in the subject, whatever he knew, didn’t know, or who told him what or didn’t. He desperately wanted to protect the deal he had made with Morrison. He admits to not wanting to put his negotiations in jeopardy.
We now know that Scott Morrison was “relentlessly eroding Australians’ faith in democracy – and laughing about it.” Joyce, by his actions, was complicit in it.
He went on to outline the deal he had made with Morrison, another Ministry, and another person on ERC [Expenditure Review Committee]. One of the biggest deals for regional Australia ever.
Q: So, you thought this was a fair deal, a fair trade?
Joyce: “I’m repeating the answer, David, I gave to you before. The prime minister’s solution to me, if I had pursued this was quite simple. He just took away the portfolio that we weren’t entitled to and took us back to the number we were entitled to. He would have the portfolio back and we would lose all power. Logically, think of it yourself. And I didn’t do this decision. These were the cards I had been dealt with.”
The public doesn’t care, Joyce says, even though his own colleagues are quite upset
“Now we are hyperventilating – I’ve listened to your panel – you’re going off the dial. It is not the issue that you think it is out there, there are other things that are permeating much deeper. The nuclear debate has gone off the table. We should be manufacturing small modular reactors. Manufacture them here, they will be ubiquitous, all across the world.”
Q: Your colleagues are angry finding out about this, this week. They want to know why they weren’t told?
Joyce: Well, most of it I didn’t know about.
And that, dear readers, for those who missed out on witnessing the debacle, is the summary of the bungling Barnaby interview.
My thought for the day
Honesty isn’t popular anymore. It doesn’t carry the weight of society’s approval it once did.
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