Friday, July 10, 2020

Today by Paddy Manning

‘It’s our fault’
Barnaby Joyce says Nats to blame for the Coalition’s Eden-Monaro defeat

Image of Barnaby Joyce

Barnaby Joyce. Photo by James Tolich

Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has blamed his own party for the victory of Labor’s Kristy McBain in last weekend’s Eden-Monaro byelection, after the Liberal candidate Fiona Kotvojs conceded last night. With counting almost finished, McBain leads Kotvojs by 723 votes after preferences, with 50.4 per cent of the two-party vote. The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party won 5.4 per cent of the vote on its debut in the ultra-marginal regional electorate, and the party directed its preferences to McBain. “Shooters preferences have definitely put the Labor party in,” Joyce told The Monthly Today, “and it’s definitely our fault that we left the territory vacant so they could do it.” The Nationals campaign in Eden-Monaro was marred by the abortive candidacy of NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro, a Joyce ally and factional opponent of the Nationals’ federal leader, Michael McCormack. Barilaro pulled out, sending a spray of poisonous texts to McCormack, saying he had “failed as a leader”, which were leaked to the media. “I don’t think people in Tumbarumba or Adelong or Batlow would care much about that, to be frank,” says Joyce. “The soap opera is magnified in the political realm, but it’s not really a big issue in rural and regional towns. They absolutely want to see you voicing their issues, fighting for their issues, and doing it in a bright spotlight where they can see it – they definitely want that.”

The Nationals’ endorsed candidate, McCormack supporter Trevor Hicks, polled 6.4 per cent of the primary vote, representing a small adverse swing of 0.6 per cent. The Shooters’ candidate, local Hilltops councillor Matthew Stadtmiller, who lives just outside Eden-Monaro in Harden, has stood twice previously in the state seat of Cootamundra. Stadtmiller says there is growing frustration in the bush with the level of representation provided by the Nationals. “Often when you have the National Party in a seat, they’re not going to make any noise about something that the Coalition is doing wrong in general, whereas we have the opposite approach,” he says. “We’re making as much noise as we can, to effect change. So we’re not here to placate the masses, like the Nationals are.” Stadtmiller says that, on his last count in Eden-Monaro, the Shooters topped the Nationals’ primary vote in 45 booths to 37, especially in the west of the electorate where there is huge concern about water allocations. He makes no apology for his party’s decision to preference Labor. “I don’t have a problem with it. I’m not going to shy away from the fact, that that’s what our how-to-vote card suggested. Our view is that if Labor was in government and they’d done a poor job regarding bushfire response, COVID relief and drought, we might’ve sent preferences or a suggestion to vote with the Coalition. We’re not really taking sides on it, we’re just sending a clear message to the government that we’ve been able to come in and pick up five per cent of the vote, and we can go a long way to determining who’s going to hold government if we run in a number of seats at the next general election.”

The federal Nationals are threatened on their right flank by the rise of the Shooters party, One Nation, Katter’s Australian Party and others, and they are internally divided after a failed leadership challenge by Barnaby Joyce in February, which saw former resources minister Matt Canavan demoted to the backbench. In response to the rise of the Shooters party, Canavan this week urged his party to “change direction” and become more forthright within the Coalition. Joyce says likewise that the emerging alliance between the Shooters and Labor is an electoral threat to the Nationals. “You either learn from the numbers or become casualties of them at a later stage,” says Joyce. “I think, tactically, one of the key things for the Labor party is they’ve realised they can win a seat with a 36 per cent primary, by reason of a political alliance with the Shooters and Fishers, and preference flows … The National Party have got to accept responsibility that they left the space, which gave the Shooters and Fishers the votes to preference Labor. And now the Labor party’s worked out that that’s a good trick.”    

In a written response earlier this week to questions about the Nationals’ showing in Eden-Monaro, a spokesperson for McCormack declined to comment until the result was declared, but pointed out that the Nationals had beat both the Shooters and the Greens on first preferences, which was a “strong endorsement” of the party’s campaign. “The Shooters did a dodgy deal with Labor,” read the response, “a deal Anthony Albanese still needs to explain. The people of Australia deserve to know what promises Labor made to the Shooters in exchange for their preferences, including which part of the Shooters’ policy platform Labor would seek to implement. The Shooters want to soften our gun laws that John Howard and the late, great Tim Fischer fought so bravely to achieve. Reform that has saved lives, prevented Port Arthur–type massacres, particularly in the cities. This is worse than Victorian ALP branch-stacking. This has far more severe consequences for society.”

McCormack is right to worry about the Shooters and Fishers, but the more immediate danger may be from his own colleagues.

“The idea that come September, on one date, you will simply remove this support, is an idea that will devastate our economy … [The government] listened to Labor, unions and the business community when they introduced wage subsidies, having opposed them. They need to listen now.”

Labor leader Anthony Albanese launches the ALP’s “Don’t Cancel JobKeeper Too Early” campaign in western Sydney.

“We urge the Australian side to immediately stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs under any pretext or in any way. Otherwise it will lead to nothing but lifting a rock only to hit its own feet.”

The Chinese embassy in Canberra responds to the Morrison government’s announcement that it will suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and provide five-year extended visas for more than 10,000 Hong Kongers already in Australia.

Morrison to the virus: ‘Ich bin ein Melburnian’
As Victoria enters a second lockdown, Scott Morrison has offered an apolitical response to the Labor state. The economic impact of the closure will affect the entire country.


The number of new cases of COVID-19 recorded in Victoria over the last 24 hours, representing the state’s largest daily increase of cases. Premier Daniel Andrews is urging Victorians to wear masks when they leave their homes.

“The Australian government welcomes the World Health Organization director-general’s announcement of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response to evaluate the world’s response into COVID-19. We acknowledge the leadership and experience the distinguished co-chairs, former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark, will bring to the panel. This follows our call for an independent review into COVID-19 and a World Health Assembly resolution supported by a record number of 145 co-sponsors, including Australia.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne and Health Minister Greg Hunt welcome the WHO’s review into the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The list

“Forthright at the outset, Laing asks: ‘Can art do anything, especially during periods of crisis?’ To this question, Laing offers many answers in a book built from a generous selection of occasional pieces – essays on artists, writers and musicians; dispatches from frieze magazine on the refugee crisis and the Grenfell Tower fire; reflections on the ethics of hospitality and queer creativity, activism and survival, which together assemble, as she told Emily LaBarge, a kind of personal canon, a ‘tribe or community, even a family’. But her first answer lies in a change of register. Art is timely not just because a crisis demands it, but because it makes us think differently about time.”

“At News Corp – in an inversion of journalism’s ideal – the old-fashioned, straight-down-the-line reporting is expendable and surplus to requirements. It is the unhinged propaganda outfit that is central to the identity of the company. It is the core that is lunatic, not the fringe.”

“I still have the dog my mother loved. See that lavender heeler, roan, smiling and straining in the rear-view. See her chasing after my mother, at least a kilometre from home. See that dog flatten herself out as she stretches to reach metal – low and fast and long.” 

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Body Count: How Climate Change Is Killing Us, Inside the Greens and Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull.


The Monthly Today

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

Cold comfort

The Morrison government gave us a recession we didn’t have to have

Image of Government Services Minister Stuart Robert

Government dis-services

Stuart Robert is doing the PM’s dirty work

Image of Energy Minister Angus Taylor.

Meet and bleat

Australia’s emissions targets have been soft – they’re about to get harder

Image of Mathias Cormann

No, ex-minister

Mathias Cormann’s taxpayer-funded job application is a nose-pincher

From the front page

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

Cold comfort

The Morrison government gave us a recession we didn’t have to have

What elitism looks like

Flagrant conflicts of interest abound at the top

Image of Guy Sebastian and Prime Minister Scott Morrison, June, 2020

And now for something completely indifferent

The Morrison government is yet to fully realise that sidelining the arts hurts the economy

Image of Anne Ferran, Scenes on the Death of Nature I, 1986

‘Know My Name’ at the National Gallery of Australia

An exhilarating exhibition considers a persistent gender bias in the visual arts