ARE people sick and tired of political spin? I believe they are.
It’s one of the reasons our political system has become so unpredictable, if that’s the word? The electorate has shown little tolerance for politicians who do not back up their rhetoric.
No area of government responsibility has been more subject to spin in recent times than agriculture. This government is simply not delivering beyond the jargon and slogans.
First we have a White Paper which is full of it. For a start, the promise of billions of dollars in drought assistance is overvalued due to drought loans measured by total value rather than their cost to government. Drought loans that in fact are destined never to be allocated. Then there are the loans facilities which require matching funding. And of course, the various small programs which sound great but lack detail.
Second, Barnaby Joyce wants everyone to believe he now has responsibility for water. Malcolm Turnbull wants you to believe that too because that’s how he appeased the Nationals. But even a cursory look at the Administrative Arrangements show the responsibility for water legislation remains with Environment Minister Greg Hunt.
Third, not a day goes by without Barnaby Joyce claiming credit for higher commodity prices. Interestingly, he takes no responsibility for the fall in others. The best example is cattle prices where the national herd is in decline. Like all markets, the price is a function of supply and demand. As supply continues to contract, prices rise.
Fourth, Barnaby Joyce keeps taking credit for new live cattle export markets. The reality is, this is a natural progression for the industry and has been made possible by the animal welfare system put in place by the former Labor government.
Fifth, Barnaby wants everyone to believe he’s going to build dams everywhere. That’s because he thinks it’s a popular thing to do. It’s true they are popular with some, but it’s also true they are not welcomed by others. But that’s not the issue. Dams will or not be built on the basis of three key points. A) Do their benefits outweigh their impact on the natural environment? B) Are they economically viable? Remembering, the water they provide has to be affordable. C) Will the private sector be willing to invest?
Sixth, Barnaby Joyce has now asked one of his back-benchers to write a “White Paper” on agricultural co-operatives. Again, he knows that the idea of promoting these co-operatives is popular. But after two years and all the resources of a Department behind him, he needs a back-bencher to write the policy? Do back benchers write white papers? I think not!
Seventh, on May 2, 2015, Barnaby Joyce claimed "SHOVEL-READY projects" that will stimulate economic activity in drought-struck regions of NSW and Queensland are on the verge of being unveiled by the Coalition. To date not one project has been approved, not one job created and not one cent spent on this much trumpeted initiative.
Eighth, Barnaby Joyce misled farmers on the Liverpool Plains that the changes to EPBC Act would only be partial and not affect them; he is yet to explain his false statement to the farmers of the Liverpool Plains.
Ninth, Barnaby Joyce doesn’t understand and is dangerous to the farming sector with regards to the long-term sustainability of our natural resources. On May 11, 2015 Barnaby Joyce joined in with the conspiracy theories, agreeing with climate wacko Andrew Bolt that the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology were “warmist institutions” aiming to “get your money and put it in [their] pocket and send reports backwards and forth to one another.”
Tenth, Barnaby Joyce has shown that he pays little attention to the detail of his own policies, from bungling his answer about drought assistance to the Parliament during Question Time on October 20, 2014, which was initially doctored and then reverted back, to admitting to ABC's Leigh Sales on budget night that the depreciation initiative timelines announced on the night didn’t add up.
Yep, two years on and not much to show for his work but spin. No strategic guidance, no work on productivity, nothing about changing weather patterns and sustainability, just spin.
This article was first published in FARMONLINE on Monday, 5 October 2015.