It has been another big week in politics both here in Australia and overseas particularly in South Africa. In this blog I will give my takes on now former South African president Jacob Zuma resigning as South African President and here locally the Murray Darling Basin disallowance motion and the Barnaby Joyce Political struggles.
On Wednesday this week embattled South African President Jacob Zuma resigned as president (1), this came amidst 18 fraud charges hanging over Zuma and with the ruling party looking to move against him with either a motion to remove him as leader or impeachment from Parliament. The fraud charges look worse for the former president when put into context of a poor economy with rising unemployment and real issues of water management with the ongoing Cape Town water crisis (2). Another story that shows the lack of empathy that Zuma had for the plight of his people is he spent six million dollars on the renovation of his house and his defence in part was his new swimming pool could be used to fight future fires. The interesting thing now will be will Zuma face any of the corruption charges labelled against him or was there a deal made as part of his resignation to drop those charges particularly as the ruling National ANC government has it’s own corruption problems.
The new president is Cyril Ramaphosa who as this article states (3) has links to Nelson Mandela and there is a spirit he can invoke to try and improve the living standards of the country. The key challenge for Ramaphosa as I alluded to earlier is the economy, as the article I have linked says South Africa have had their credit rating ranked as junk status, unemployment is at 27 percent and corruption is rife in all levels of government. South Africa also continue to be known for violent crime and have been labelled as the murder capital of the world. South Africa is meant to be the real jewel of the African continent so it is sad to see their struggles to get past the problems of apartheid and how to turn Nelson Mandela’s vision as president into a lived experience with better life outcomes. I also have seen their prowess as a sporting nation and they outperform in Athletics, Cricket and Rugby for example what their economic status might suggest so you hope they can have a leader who can bring some prosperity to the lives of their people other than looking to invoke the sporting heroics of a team.
Also on Wednesday but back here in Australia the Greens, Labour and crossbench members from South Australia combined to block a revision to the Murray Darling Basin that would see 70 gigalitres of water less saved from the north of the Basin (4). This would take the amount of water saved from 390 gigalitres to 320 gigalitres. This blocking of the plan angered farmers and Coalition members who said the move would open up more water for farmers and also would save irrigation jobs. Before I talk about why the Labor and Greens made this move I think it is worth reminding ourselves what the Murray Darling Basin Plan is. The link here (5) provides a good explanation of what the Murray Darling Basin Plan is but essentially it sets a limit to how much water can be taken annually from the Basin for Consumptive use, such as agriculture, irrigation, farming and other human use.The volume of water to be taken for consumptive use is set in such a way that there is not an environmental impact on the waterfronts such as our rivers, waterways and wetlands.
I think the key reasoning for SA being particularly anti moves to reduce the amount of water saved is because of the 4 Corners episode last year that put a blow torch on the theft of water from the Eastern States. This episode led to a quick move from SA Premier Jay Weatherill to call for a royal commission into water (6). There’s also a feeling from SA that as we are at the end of the river the rest of the states screw us over along the river and we get the leftovers at the end. The South also are just over a month from an election and the need to get tougher on water to look good locally is also a factor. The Eastern states of Victoria and New South Wales have now threatened to leave the Murray Darling Basin plan as they think the water plan hurts their farming industry which places them in direct opposition to SA who believe that the Eastern States just want to make a better deal at the exclusion of SA(7).
The last issue I want to discuss in this blog post is Barnaby Joyce. Now this issue has been at large for a while now but I’ve been hesitant to discuss the issue as to me the affair is a personal matter and I don’t want to pass judgment on someone’s personal life. However as the issue has progressed there are now legitimate issues on a political front that may have broken the ministerial code of conduct and it has also influenced the relationship between the Nationals and Liberals which are issues that are worth writing about. So in Parliament this week Labor focussed their attack on two fronts. The first front focussed on the creation of jobs for Vikki Campion in Matt Canavan the Resource Minister and then when he was scuttled by Citizenship scandal a role was then created for her in the National’s whip office. I think the political attack on that front didn’t quite stick because there’s enough doubt as to whether Campion was Joyce’s partner at the time of the Canavan role coming up and then Drum wasn’t a minister so the ministerial code of conduct didn’t apply. There was another attack by Labor on that front that it’s unusual for roles to not have full application processes but having worked in government it’s not unusual for job roles to be advertised but the position is already filled by someone internally (8).
The second front of attack and I think Labor have better ground on this front is that Barnaby Joyce rented a house rent free from a business friend. Under the Ministerial code of conduct if Joyce approached the friend for a property then that is not allowed. Joyce claims that he was approached by his business friend Greg Maguire which is contradicted by a few journalism reports that said Barnaby Joyce approached Maguire. The further issue with Labor’s attack is that Joyce took up this offer while out of Parliament contesting his by election for the citizenship affair. I think the optics of Joyce still renting a house free now is the issue, when you see how housing affordability is an issue for people in the general public and rent is also an issue for a lot of people week to week.
Lastly is the strain of relationship between the Nationals and the Liberal Party, last night Malcolm Turnbull announced a ban for ministers having sexual relations with staff members (9). As well as announcing that ministerial change which I will later say why I’m not in favour of, Malcolm Turnbull also had a decent crack at Barnaby Joyce saying that Joyce had made a shocking error of judgment and that he had caused the woman in his life a world of woe. He also said that he hoped Barnaby Joyce used his leave which would mean he wouldn’t act as Prime Minister when Turnbull left the country (that role went to Senate Leader Mathias Cormann) to re-evaluate his future. That did not go down well with the Nationals as you could expect for a few reasons (10). Firstly the Nats as the junior coalition partner do not like being told how to run their party, they choose their leader not Malcolm Turnbull or any Liberals. Secondly Barnaby Joyce believes that there was nothing new in the comments from Turnbull last night and that it only hurt the involved parties more, indeed he said the comments were inept. These comments could without reconciliation cause a fracturing of the parties relationship to a point where the Coalition Agreement could become in jeopardy, now this is unlikely but such an occurrence would mean the Liberals would have to govern from vote to vote.
I said above I had reservations about the ban. I worry that if this ban occurs it will push a story hungry media to start making judgments based on gossip that may be unfounded and could lead to reputations being ruined for no reason. I think in these cases when an affair occurs in the workplace, it’s often the junior worker (often female) who is caused to lose their career while the senior worker still gets to stay in their workplace. Lastly I have heard too many stories of a corporate worker losing it all on a personal mistake and then committing suicide, I don’t think that’s a situation anyone wants to see.