FIASCO: Barnaby Joyce.
FIASCO: Barnaby Joyce. Adam Hourigan

Political point scoring turns off plebs

I'M NOT a commentator but...

Farmers and floods, fish and foam.

Four things that drew my attention this week. Two separate news stories with one common thread.

They highlighted once again, the lengths that some of our politicians will go in order to escape responsibility.

We first bore witness to the sequel to the previous week's comments by George Christensen.

He's been rather silent this week, now that we know poverty-stricken foreigners aren't the reason why farmers weren't getting timely access to disaster relief. It's just perfect irony that the real reason was a stoush between Queensland's Premier and his own party leader.

Now, whether the Premier is lying about the advice she purports Barnaby Joyce gave her about the state's relief application, whether Barnaby is lying about denying the conversation even happened or whether the whole fiasco was just one of those misunderstandings, I reckon most of us out here in jaded Voterland are well past caring.

Farmers just wanted it fixed. And fixed fast, so they could start their long recovery process.

Nobody appreciates being used by duelling politicians, especially after a disaster. Barnaby Joyce shouldn't win any fans for his belligerent reaction when the story became public.

The spectacle of him waving around Qld's two-page request for assistance in one hand whilst proudly nursing the NSW government's 26-page application form in the other was demeaning to those he purports to represent.

It's ridiculous that we have here a bloke who has spent most of his political career railing against red tape now seeking to justify withholding disaster relief because the paperwork wasn't done properly.

This was blatant grandstanding by the deputy PM, designed to use a disaster in order to score cheap points off a state Labor government. Given Barnaby's fondness of using 50 words when three would suffice, perhaps he's just not used to a two-page request being just as sufficient under the circumstances as 26.

Even if Queensland's original submission was lacking in fine detail, they can be forgiven as they were preoccupied with dealing with an emergency.

And it's not like Joyce wouldn't be aware of the need for relief, given the affected areas all seem to have been in federal seats held by the Coalition. Were his own MPs not on the ground reporting back?

Why do we have such an inefficient bureaucratic mechanism for dealing with disaster relief, where it requires a state government to fill out a ream of paper before Canberra will act?

It's great that Canberra and Brisbane have both got their acts together and those in the affected regions are now receiving the funds. However, I can't help but think they might have still been waiting for it if the media hadn't brought it to light.

The revelation this week of a chemical spill at Brisbane Airport was yet another example of political blame-shifting at the expense of public welfare. When fire retardants accidentally escaped from a Qantas property into Moreton Bay, it took authorities days before they let the public know.

Qantas knew of the spill, as did the Qld Environment Department, as did their Commonwealth counterparts. Meanwhile, the public were fishing and swimming in the vicinity blissfully unaware, for days. Fortunately, there appear to be no immediately-detectible health problems. However, that is not the point and authorities have been lucky.

What is the issue, is that Queensland's Environment Minister Steve Miles decided that it wasn't his responsibility to alert the public. It was Canberra's responsibility. This is despite his department knowing of the spill first.

His argument that he was only following protocols might be fair enough but in the event of potential risk to the public, surely common sense should rule over protocols.

Once again, this descended into a political points scoring exercise with no great concern being given for us plebs. It's simply not good enough for Steve Miles to say he didn't think it was his responsibility to issue a public warning and that it was the responsibility of Qantas and Canberra.

These inter-governmental protocols seem to be used in order to deflect having to take responsibility far too often.

But perhaps in Mr Miles's case, he is far too preoccupied lately with saving his own career, given the proposed electoral boundary changes will force him to move seats.

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