The trouble with having someone of Joyce’s limited intellectual capabilities as Deputy Prime Minister is that every time he appears in public he is likely to say something really stupid.
He obviously works on the assumption that bad publicity is better than no publicity and that some of his more outrageous statements will resonate with someone in the electorate. Instance: The Johnny Depp and the dogs incident would have corralled the anti-Pirates of the Caribbean vote.
But he excelled himself last night at a regional leaders’ debate in Goulburn.
The Age reports that “Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has linked the 2011 suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia with a concurrent rise in the number asylum seeker boats that arrived in Australia.
Implying that the Indonesian government could have been responsible for dispatching asylum seekers to Australia, Mr Joyce said the decision to halt live exports was “disastrous”.
Might I remind you that when we closed down the live animal export industry, it was around about the same time that we started seeing a lot of people arriving in boats in Australia, he said.”
Barnaby Joyce drops the ball again.
The first and least obvious stupidity is assuming events that are temporarily related are necessarily causally related. It may be the case, but there has to be evidence to support it and in this case Joyce probably has none.
The second stupidity is that relationships between Australia and Indonesia have been strained and diplomatic and political tit-for tat has been common. Joyce may well be right, but he has no evidence but in diplomacy it’s often not a good idea to state the obvious and certainly not the conjectural.
Nevertheless, evidence-based politics is not the name of the game in this election.
The third stupidity is the Deputy Prime Minister saying something like this in public. It is certainly not designed to help relationships with Indonesia. You can imagine that there is steam coming out of Julie Bishop’s ears this morning. Comments like Joyce’s can undo months and even years of patient diplomacy. Bishop, probably our best Foreign Minister in living memory, knows well the need for patient diplomacy with Indonesia.
Ever the diplomat, Julie Bishop mimes her response to Barnaby Joyce’s comments.
And the third and enduring stupidity, which he will undoubtedly repeat, is being aggressively stupid in public.