Joyce affair reveals Australia’s corrupt and crony political culture

By Joe Montero
Since this article was written, Barnaby Joyce has announced his retirement, on the grounds that he “can’t take it anymore.”  As indicated below, the situation had developed to the point where his own team pulled the knife in him. It is likely that he was given the option to leave or be pushed.  He took the first.

In many ways, the controversy over Barnaby Joyce’s affair is a distraction. The focus on the personal affair with a former journalist, who became a staffer in the media has the flavour of tabloid journalism about it. Personal relationships are much more complex and only those involved really know what is going on. Besides, he has done much worse than get his girlfriend pregnant and this is what the focus should be on.

Joyce has consistently been in the front line, attacking those on Centrelink benefits as “welfare cheat.”  He has played a leading role in  bringing in a list of measures, engineered to make life more difficult for the most vulnerable Australians.

While doing this, he has not been too shy to dip his own hands into the government’s coffers.And he is accused of using public funds to cultivate an extramarital affair. And when he finally leaves Canberra, there will be no guilt about walking away with a bag of life-long perks and a pension that would provide a comfortable life for a whole bunch of other pensioners. You can bet he won’t be calling himself a welfare cheat, even if this comes on top of his reputed wealth of around $18 million.

Time and time again, Barnaby Joyce has betrayed the ranks of the National Party, siding with Tony Abbott and then Malcolm Turnbull, to champion cut backs in services and privatisations. He once claimed to stand against this. No wonder that some in the National Party took to calling him Turncoat Barnaby. This has contributed to the shifting of a section of the party’s base of support to One Nation.

Many more sins could be written about. At every turn, when a new measure that hurt ordinary Australians came, Barnaby was there, playing the role of the most reliable sycophant of a brutal  government without compassion and prepared to do anything to serve its own interests. .

If there is one positive thing to come out of the present affair, it is that it has given us a glimpse of the murky waters of the embedded culture of corruption and cronyism that envelopes Canberra.

This  is the most pressing political issue of our times. Corruption and cronyism are what is determining the type of government that we have and what lies behind so many measures are being put in place, which are hurting ordinary Australians.

The flip side is that  this situation has plunged trust in the political system to the lowest level ever. Before the Barnaby Joyce affair broke out, not many had any great trust in parliament, leading politicians and the big parties.  But now, the stocks have sunk even lower, and this has mainly goner in the direction of the Coalition.

Distrust does not only exist in urban working class communities. It is strong in rural communities and is even an issue among the most privileged part of Australia.

But it is the erosion of the home turf that gives the government its greatest short-term headache. A part of this base, now sees Joyce as a liability and wants him gone. For Turnbull, this means that his enemies have been given another weapon to destabilise his position. This explains why  he works so hard to defend his deputy .

Coming on the back of a two year conga line of  politicians caught out misusing funds and acting inappropriately in some way, in their relationship to staff, means that the Joyce affair is sitting on a rickety edifice that  threatens to crumble.

Revelations have come out in relation to donors and things done in their favour. All this is now on the public record, and one can be sure that what has come to the surface must be but a little part, of the muck that lies underneath.

Joyce’s present scandal came immediately after the one about his dual New Zealand/Australia citizenship. Government ranks closed behind him,while others in a similar position had to go. Barnaby got to stay. To the public, it looked like a massive display of hypocrisy, confirming the belief in the double standards of the political elite.

As more of the details come to light, Joyce’s latest use of public funds for personal purposes involves a web of compliance, stretching from the Prime Minister, to government officials and certain “friends.”

This is exactly the sort of thing that separates the political elite from the rest of society, which increasingly sees it as being out to line its own pockets. the reason why it bites, is that there is an air of truth about it.

While this club of the privileged continues to line its pockets and that of its mates, at the same time that it presides over stagnating wages that fall further and further behind what is needed to make ends meet, forcing a growing and alarming number of Australians to sleep under the stars, impoverishing swathes of rural Australia and the squeezing of small business the nation is bound to get angrier.

Add to this the pig’s trough of massive corporate tax evasion and the growing procession of former politicians ending up on company boards of directors, in payment for past services. It is inevitable that Australia is heading for a period of greater political instability.

It is not all bad. The situation provides an opportunity for all those who have been left out, to find ways to work together and build an alternative to bring about change.

Barnaby Joyce has to go. But it must be remembered that he is only one in a whole barrel of rotten apples. The lot of them have to go.

 

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