It’s hard to believe that the conduct of Barnaby Joyce could still shock us, but here we are.
In the middle of a national emergency, where some of the worst bushfires in our country’s history have ripped through NSW, Joyce took the opportunity to play politics in the most abhorrent way.
Using Sky News as his soapbox on Tuesday, the former Deputy Prime Minister suggested that the fire service had conducted insufficient hazard reduction burns as a result of Greens opposition. He then made reference to two victims of the fire– innocent Australians who tragically lost their lives last week– suggesting they had “most likely” voted for The Greens.
Despite claims that “the last thing he wanted to do” was to “start attacking them”, Joyce’s objective in drawing such a line during the interview was clear. Why comment on such a thing as political preferences if the intent was not to infer that the two victims had in someway encouraged their fate?
Ironically, Joyce then accused The Greens of doing the exact thing he himself had just done– politicise a tragic event.
“What I wish Mr Bandt would do is not try and extend this argument to a political purpose that he is following”, he said.
Politicians from all parties have criticised Joyce’s controversial comments, but the Nationals MP has so far refrained from retracting them altogether.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale took to Twitter with a valid question: “how low can you go?”.
‘Why does it matter who the victims of this terrible fire voted for? Stop trying to shift blame and distract from your government’s failures to address the climate crisis, and remember: the first duty of a government is to look after its people,” he said.
How low can you go @Barnaby_Joyce? Why does it matter who the victims of this terrible fire voted for? Stop trying to shift blame and distract from your government’s failures to address the climate crisis, and remember: the first duty of a government is to look after its people. pic.twitter.com/m2jd0HTZWR
— Richard Di Natale (@RichardDiNatale) November 12, 2019
While Scott Morrison rallied for calm, blaming all sides of Parliament for leveraging the situation for political gain.
“There have been a lot of provocative comments made over the last few days from all sides of the debate and I find it very unhelpful,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“The last thing that people in an urgent crisis need at the moment is hearing politicians shout at each other.
“There is a time and a place to debate controversial issues and important issues, right now it’s important to focus on the needs of Australians who need our help.”
Three people have lost their lives over the past week. Wildlife has been obliterated, thousands have fled to refuges and hundreds of homes have been destroyed.
The worst may yet come.
Right now, we desperately need robust, compassionate and proactive leaders. But comments like this from Barnaby Joyce beg the question: Are there any on the horizon?