24 August 2009

Darling Downs Quixote

The Nationals have taken what they think is a historic change of course by rededicating itself to its grass roots. What it has actually done is voted for its own irrelevance - instead of shuffling toward oblivion, it is hurtling toward it Bolt-like (I meant Usain, but you can throw in Andrew too), clicking its heels and whooping. Barnaby Joyce is doing what Bob Katter did, except Katter left the Nationals to their own devices while Joyce doesn't want the structure to survive him.

The Australian can't believe it's really over, still taking them seriously despite everything. This article shows the weakness of "even-handed" reporting. Joyce has seized on an idea that isn't original or well thought out. The reasons he chose nuclear power are:

  • it will make him look like a visionary nation-builder to yokels (visionary nation-builders of old used to go on and on about nuclear power, and the reasons why it didn't come through for us isn't clear to them); and

  • No nuclear facilities will be built in National electorates. You'd only build a nuclear reactor near a major city, because that's where baseload power is required and it's where nuclear technicians would live.

The quotes from Minchin on why nuclear power is a non-starter are surprisingly lucid. Subsequent quotes by Isobel Redmond and Malcolm Turnbull make them look like Minchin's sock-puppets. Minchin also leaves aside the fact that there is no skilled nuclear workforce big enough to build an industry upon. And yet ...

... the fact is that Australia's existing coal-fired power stations are wearing out. South Australia needs a new way of generating power: could a nuclear power station somewhere between Woomera and Adelaide be an answer? To ask this is to play down (through sheer ignorance on my part) the possibilities of LNG, CSG and other gases, as well as the very quest for that nineteenth-century notion of remotely-located piped-in bulk baseload power rather than smaller-scale power that is generated and consumed locally. Solar power does not need to generate industrial quantities of power - if it can take lots of individual households off the grid (except, perhaps, during usage spikes), this will be a contribution equal to several new power stations - coal, nuclear or whatever.

Akerman and Franklin also ignore the possibility of Labor being divided over nuclear power. Minchin says that there's no bipartisan consensus on nuclear power but Martin Ferguson seems pretty clear, and nobody's put out a press release to the contrary so everything's tickety-boo with them.

All this is to give Joyce and the Nationals more credit than they warrant.
Noting the ALP had campaigned in 2007 by saying a returned Howard government would build nuclear reactors in people's backyards, Senator Joyce said people deserved more information about the potential benefits and the chance to vote in a referendum on the issue.

Consumers might accept nuclear reactors in their neighbourhoods if they were told it would cut their power bills in half, he said.

The Queensland senator also said that while it might sound noble to say that the world's energy problems could be solved by more windmills and solar panels, this was simply unrealistic.

"I'm putting the (nuclear) agenda out there," he said.

Little care, no responsibility. Would it really cut power bills in half? Why are windmills and solar power inherently unrealistic, and doomed ever to be so? A bit of journalism here would have been nice, either making Joyce earn his free publicity or cross-checking with someone who'd actually know about electricity generation and distribution.

But for true silliness piled on the silliness of Joyce's own, we need to go stark raving Milney:
QUEENSLAND, as they once used to say somewhat disparagingly, is different. Well here's some mail: politically at least, that remains the case. And in ways that may well shape the final outcome of the electoral contest between Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull. If Malcolm manages to last that long.

He's hoisted himself up onto two crutches of cliché (Queensland is different, here's some mail) and is hobbling through his article. If you're going to invoke Queensland you should at least examine the idea that Joyce and Rudd have clearly chosen not to shirtfront one another: each understands the other only too well, and both fancy their chances with the Sydney silvertail. Every time I read a Milney piece I see the half-dozen or so stories he should have written.
... at the historic Hyatt Hotel, the Nationals yesterday wound up their peak federal council meeting.

And very successful it was too.

Successful at what, Milney? Successful for whom?
In the words of the party's federal director Brad Henderson, in his report to conference: "A new treatment of our logo, new website, in our annual report and with a new visual identity our contemporary new look tells Australians that we are changing."

What that "changing" meant became clear as the weekend progressed. In danger of dying a demographic death the Nationals have decided to rededicate themselves to their base.

Again in Henderson's words: "The nub of the changes that we are making is about more assertively advocating the interests of regional Australia."

Words fail me. They're going the way of the Democrats and they're focused on their fucking logo. It's questionable that the base will be as enamoured of the visual identity as our man Brad.
Asked by Laurie Oakes whether the Nationals at the conference had decided they wouldn't vote for an emissions trading system under any circumstances, Joyce replied: "That is correct."

Translated, that is a one-finger salute to Turnbull. In other words, no matter what amendments or concessions he manages to negotiate with the Rudd government before the ETS comes back before the Senate in November, the Nationals won't be having a bar of it.

Hardly a surprise, but look at the numbers. There are 76 seats in the Senate; less the President, 38 votes are needed to pass a vote there. Labor has 32 Senators and the Liberals another 32: let the five Nats/CLP fall where they may, who needs 'em? If the Nationals don't want to be taken for granted by the city slickers, that's up to them - but small parties depend on either:

  • being part of a larger entity (e.g. a Coalition with a major party); or

  • playing a spoiler role, the deft use of the balance of power (e.g. like the Democrats used to do, and like the Greens are trying to do, in the Senate).

Which role is Joyce playing? Neither, and that's why he's stupid. Stupid as the Joh Nationals, who thought they were a major party and ended up going from nowhere to oblivion with nothing to show for it south of Coolangatta. Stupid as Hanson, who got a million votes but no seat. Milney should be calling Joyce on his stupidity and is failing his readers and his employer by not doing so.

It's all very well to compare yourself to Cortés, but burning your boats is the easy bit. Conquest and dispossession is the hard bit. A small number of Spaniards with steel, gunpowder and immunities to certain diseases prevailing over an ancient civilisation without the means for its own survival is a different matter to taking on those multitudes Joyce appears to regard as his opponents. He doesn't have Spanish gold or the Papacy behind him, it isn't apparent that he leads much of a popular movement beyond Brad and his website. The Nationals might be inconvenient or disrespectful to Turnbull but they don't seem inclined to imprison him in his Point Piper home; the comparison is so silly and grandiose it calls Joyce's mental balance into question.
All of which must lead students of history to wonder if it will be Turnbull who ends up playing Montezuma to Joyce's Cortes.

Not just Joyce's.
With the Nats now cast as regional conquistadors how will the Barnaby Party's policy differences be reconciled with the Liberals under a common banner, let alone under a loose Coalition agreement? Will the Liberals in Brisbane run a different campaign on climate change in the city to the Nationals in the bush? Whose position will prevail in government?

Answer: the Liberals, all the more so if they distance themselves from ratbags like Joyce. Where are the regional seats to be won by climate change denialism? Are there more of them than seats to be lost by this retreat from the world (similar to that of the Aztecs - another reason why the analogy doesn't work, Milney).
"Nationals voters will want to vote National, particularly those who identify with Barnaby. The advantage of a coalition is that it allows you to target different messages to different constituencies.

"The case for product differentiation is stronger in Queensland than anywhere else in the country. All that would be lost. We would be asking people to vote for the Coalition, yet running in the name of a party which isn't even a member of the Coalition, which doesn't even exist in Canberra. It would be a total fiasco."

If the Nationals want a fiasco, they can have a fiasco - but if they want power they'll have to stick with the Coalition. Joyce won't do what it takes to secure power for the Nationals, so the idea that they would make him their leader in all but name is a death-wish on their part. Why didn't Laurie Oakes use his memory and ask what was different between Joyce now and the Nats of the '80s who set the party on the road to oblivion.

Milney has been looking to play Sancho Panza to Don Quixote ever since Peter Costello squibbed the Liberal leadership (and did so without tipping off Milney, all that suckholing wasted). It looks like Joyce is that figure, colourful but doomed.
Look up the tale. For Montezuma the ending is not pretty.

Nor for Cortés, according to Wikipedia:
Having spent a great deal of his own money to finance expeditions, he was now heavily in debt. In February 1544 he made a claim on the royal treasury, but was given a royal runaround for the next three years. Disgusted, he decided to return to Mexico in 1547. When he reached Seville, he was stricken with dysentery. He died in Castilleja de la Cuesta, Seville province, on December 2, 1547, from a case of pleurisy at age 62.

After Cortés died his children were disinherited and his bones were regularly shifted about. Something to look forward to, eh Barnaby - but that's what you get for getting ahead of yourself and mixing with the likes of silly Glenn Milne. Joyce calls to mind another conquístador, with a very different role for the wannabe Sancho Panza:
Conquistador your stallion stands
In need of company
And like some angel's hallowed brow
You reek of purity
I see your armour-plated breast
Has long since lost its sheen
And in your death mask face
There are no signs which can be seen

And though I hoped for something to find
I could see no maze to unwind

Conquistador a vulture sits
Upon your silver shield
And in your rusty scabbard now
The sand has taken seed
And though your jewel-encrusted blade
Has not been plundered still
The sea has washed across your face
And taken of its fill

And though I hoped for something to find
I could see no maze to unwind

Conquistador there is no time
I must pay my respect
And though I came to jeer at you
I leave now with regret
And as the gloom begins to fall
I see there is no, only all
And though you came with sword held high
You did not conquer, only die

And though I hoped for something to find
I could see no maze to unwind

And though I hoped for something to find
I could see no maze to unwind

(repeat, fade)

- Procul Harum Conquistador (Brooker/ Reid)

No wonder Brad is busying himself with logos and websites: what else can you do?

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