Diary

Gadfly
Just Joyce

For a politician to get noticed these days, they have to be spectacularly bad at their job. On this principle, the Coalition has produced some of the mightiest figures in Australian political history, characters who will be studied for generations to come, so future leaders can learn just how bad it can get.

This is the government that has given us the likes of Christian Porter and Andrew Laming. The Queensland MP has recently been sending legal letters to several journalists for damaging his “character and reputation”.

His lawyer is Rebekah Giles, who also represented Christian Porter, because the entire legal community in Australia is apparently just three lawyers, all representing LNP politicians.

Describing her role and its relationship to journalistic freedom, Giles said “... there is a vast difference between the vigorous exchange of views and the publication of false accusations of criminal conduct without any attempt to check the allegations or behave reasonably and responsibly before disseminating them”.

Then there is Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Within a week of the coup that reminded Australia he still exists, much to the country’s chagrin, Joyce has told Melbourne he “couldn’t really give a shit” about its pandemic challenges. And that “you can almost smell the burning flesh from here”. That last bit could be a sign he is having a stroke, and he should probably get checked by a GP.

Further evidence of this questionable behaviour can be found in Darren Chester’s description of a phone conversation he had with Joyce as “incoherent”.

Expanding his views on the coronavirus, the new-old deputy PM said, “It’s like saying I want zero cases of measles, mumps. We’re going to shut the borders for that? It’s just not possible.” This is news to smallpox, which was actually declared eradicated in 1980. Thus eradication is indeed possible.

Joyce then put the taxpayers’ money where his mouth is and walked into a petrol station without a face mask, for which he was fined $200.

Given all he’s accomplished in the week since becoming deputy prime minister again, his greatest achievement so far is in making Australians yearn for the return of Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Hazy on the AZ

Reminding us that incoherence is an essential part of the job, Scott Morrison gave a press conference to address the rapid spread of Covid-19 across the nation. Addressing the vaccination plan, he said: “At no stage of that plan, under any scenarios that were considered last year, late November when we agreed the national vaccination plan, was there a situation contemplated this time of the year that the vaccination would have reached anywhere near the level of herd immunity that you would expect to enable the sorts of things that you are talking about.”

It’s like a nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll. And it explains why we’ve now been told anyone can get AstraZeneca from their GPs, which was news to the GPs, and also news to the chief health officers of various states, who differ greatly on how safe this is.

To sum it up, the announcement seems to be that anyone under 40 can now get vaccinated, unless their GPs don’t know about this new program, which is likely, or unless they listen to the confusing and contradictory opinions of many health experts, rather than the prime minister, in which case it’s safer to walk into the ocean while wishing Australia had more competent political leaders.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has said slightly more than 1.46 million Australians are now fully vaccinated. Which is very exciting for the 19.14 million Australians eligible for vaccination, until they’re told Barnaby Joyce doesn’t give a shit about them either.

Corruption consultant

One of the most shocking results from the Australia Talks survey conducted by the ABC was that 56 per cent of Australians believe politicians are often corrupt. Shocking because it proves that 44 per cent of Australians clearly don’t know what corruption is, or really aren’t paying attention.

For that 44 per cent of Australians, an example of what qualifies as corruption might be found in an audit that has revealed the Morrison government hurriedly spent $389 million on commuter car parks the day before calling the federal election. Three quarters of the projects ended up in Coalition electorates, which is of course a coincidence.

The Australian National Audit Office – the closest we’ll ever get to a federal ICAC really – released a report that discovered not a single one of the 47 commuter car park sites promised by the Coalition in the run-up to the election was deemed worthy by the infrastructure department. A total of $660 million worth of projects was, in fact, hand-picked based on advice given by MPs and candidates in the 2019 election. None of whom, it turns out, are experts in car parks. Basically, the car parks that did get the money weren’t based on merit, which is fitting for a government that can never be accused of being populated by people chosen on merit.

If there was any doubt as to the intentions behind the distribution, one car park located in a Labor-held electorate was incorrectly registered as located in a Coalition electorate, and the funding announcement was thus made by the Coalition MP. So even when they got it right, they got it wrong. Or rather, even when they got it wrong, they announced it right.

Well, at least we’re getting car parks, you may be thinking. Congestion is a growing problem and at this point we’re all curating a collection of parking fines. Not quite. Of the 47 car parks announced, only two have been built. And two have been cancelled. And 11 have not yet even begun the basic paperwork towards one day being built. It’s a rollout of car parks so monumentally incompetent, it’s like they were preparing us for the later vaccine rollout.

Daniel Andrews’ back

Putting an end to the laziest conspiracy theories to date, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has returned to work. It was a return celebrated by the editorial writers of The Australian, which threatened: “It’s time for your red star cap to reappear in Johannes Leak cartoons.”

This is quite possibly the single most impotent threat in the history of immature bullying. The Australian spends more time accusing people of communism than a Cold War-era Middle Eastern dictator being propped up by the CIA. At some point the lack of imagination gets embarrassing for the accuser. 

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jul 3, 2021 as "Gadfly: Just Joyce".

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Sami Shah is a multi-award-winning comedian, writer and journalist.