Naked Eye #2

The second instalment of my summer political column for the Sun-Herald. Barnaby Joyce and Stephen Fielding feature in this special wacky Senator edition.

Rudd Scores at the MCG

Unlike his predecessor, Kevin Rudd must dread his visit to the cricket commentary box each summer. Being relaxed and blokey simply isn’t the Prime Minister’s style – he probably had to bite his tongue to avoid suggesting that Ricky Ponting hire consultants from McKinsey’s to produce a report on the best way of defeating Pakistan.

The PM used his recent visit to the MCG to launch an anti-binge drinking campaign, a worthy cause in the Australian summer. But I was surprised the ads were fronted by Richie Benaud and Tony Greig. Surely the “Know When To Declare” message would have been more heartfelt coming from Rudd? Although his preferred social occasion is a working party, alcohol has been known to turn the PM into a wild man, at least relatively. I’d like to see an ad where Rudd warns punters to “declare” they’ve had too much to drink before ending up at a strip club with New York Post editor Col Allan.

A very Family First Christmas

Catching up with endless hordes of family members on Christmas Day can be a bit daunting, but spare a thought for Steve Fielding, who spent the day lunching with 15 brothers and sisters and their families. Being one of 16 kids might explain the senator’s need to stand out from the crowd with wacky publicity stunts, like dressing up as a beer bottle to promote a recycling scheme or marching shirtless through Melbourne with protesting pensioners. There was no word, though, on whether he wore his tree outfit to the lunch, perhaps bedecked with tinsel.

Having to deal with such a huge clan would put almost anyone’s family values to the test, but the Family First leader’s remain beyond reproach. Earlier this year, he warned the nation of the environmental threat posed by divorce, which apparently contributes to climate change by creating unnecessary extra households. These days, of course, Fielding is a climate change sceptic, which presumably means unhappy couples can now divorce without fretting about their carbon footprint.

Yet another Bali high

It’s a happy new year for some of the Tamil refugees from the Oceanic Viking who are now being resettled in Australia. And predictably, the fact that all 78 were escaping a civil war and have now been verified by the UNHCR as genuine refugees has been forgotten in the midst of another unpleasant squabble about whether we’re soft on asylum-seekers. Apparently we Aussies only welcome boats on the horizon at the end of the Sydney to Hobart.

But amid all the hype about border protection, we should acknowledge that Australia’s problems with illegal arrivals are hardly one-way. The Indonesians still lock up plenty of unwanted Aussies, like the union official who was arrested this week for allegedly smuggling marijuana into Bali in his sock. What, aren’t the beaches relaxing enough?

The unleashable Barnaby Joyce

Tony Abbott’s recent reshuffle of the Opposition frontbench contained a few surprises. Not only did he defrost Bronwyn Bishop and Philip Ruddock, but he entrusted the usually boring Finance portfolio to Barnaby Joyce, the Nationals Senator who makes Sarah Palin look like a reliable team player.

Joyce celebrated his elevation by calling for a total ban on Chinese investment, which the Opposition Leader immediately repudiated. So, in light of the concerns over whether the Nationals senator could follow the Coalition line, I was amused to discover Joyce writing for the ABC’s Unleashed website. Joyce was giving the “nasty horrid people” in the media a festive spray for their portrayal of him as erratic and naive. “This is a political lesson to all,” he wrote. “Do not say anything that could ever be contrived as a personal opinion, in fact do your very best not to have an opinion, in fact in fact do not have an opinion that you do not have an opinion.”

Fortunately, there’s not much chance of Joyce taking his own advice. Unperturbed by his previous rebuke, he called this week for the Government to prevent a Chinese company buying the nation’s biggest irrigator.