Robyn McAskill

Robyn McAskill

Robyn has worked in business administration, governance and operations within financial services, not-for-profit and government, and owned and operated several small businesses. Tamworth has always been her spiritual home and she has a long connection with the New England region. In the 1850s her maternal grandmother’s family moved to Uralla and lived there for generations. Charles Smith, her great, great grandfather owned "Agden Green", Dangars Lagoon, Uralla; and her great grandfather owned “Roseville”, Uralla. "The views I express here in my articles are entirely my own," she says.
Robyn McAskill
Robyn's father was born at Uralla in 1914. His family lived there until his parents moved to Tamworth in the 1920s. "I have lived in many different locations around Australia and overseas," she says. "My somewhat nomadic life has seen me living in large cosmopolitan cities both in Australia and overseas, as well as small rural towns of less than 30 people. In 2017, my husband and I decided to move 'home' and have settled at Tamworth. Twitter is a passion and one of the best sources for unbiased news and information. As we approach the upcoming federal election, I find myself reflecting on the New England by-election, politicians in general and the media."

When federal Member for New England Barnaby Joyce cheated on his wife Natalie, many of his supporters maintained that it was a personal matter and not newsworthy. If the only issue with Barnaby was that he had an extramarital affair, I would agree — people make mistakes — but the enduring anger isn’t simply about the affair. It’s about the breach of voter trust, mismanagement, ignoring the law, and the promotion of mining ahead of rural community interests.

Only Barnaby knows why he chose to conceal the truth from his constituents during the 2017 by-election, why he decided to publicly question his son’s paternity, and then sold any remaining self-respect for a $150,000 television interview. But it all raises questions about who Barnaby is as a person, his ethics and values as well as lengths he will go to protect himself.

Trumpy Barney

The National Party was established to further the political interests of primary producers. It eventually expanded its role to provide a voice to people who lived outside of metropolitan areas. Like the people it represents, the National Party has historically taken a conservative approach, with policies aligned to traditional family values and high ethical and moral standards.

Barnaby Joyce was elected to the Senate in 2004 as a National Party Senator for Queensland and brought a new type of style to the National Party. In 2016 he became party leader and deputy prime minister.

He can be described as being brash, impulsive, hot-headed, a renegade, combative and lacking respect for women. Terms such as ‘retail politics’ and populism are often used to describe Barnaby’s style. In his 2016 article Barnaby Joyce is a master of panto and pork barrelling Ed Ganon described Barnaby’s style as “Trumpesque”.

His spectacular fall from grace started with dual-citizenship issues and finished with sexual harassment allegations.

In late 2018, the local National Party selection committee struggled to reach an agreement regarding his preselection over concerns that there could be more skeletons in the closet

More recently, a number of prominent rural women expressed their anger over his lack of respect for women and his promotion of mining over the interests of primary producers.

The 2013, New South Wales Rural Woman of the Year Isobel Knight said she “had hoped the National Party would remove Joyce in the coming federal election and stand another candidate, but he had not been replaced”.

“It speaks of [the National party] not having the spine they need to have,” Knight said.

Is Barnaby an asset or a liability for the Nationals, especially with female voters?

Family values Barney

A strong supporter of heterosexual marriage and traditional family values, Barnaby campaigned for years against same-sex marriage. A February, 2018 news article stared : “Joyce told attendees at an anti-marriage equality rally (organised by the Australian Christian Lobby and the Australian Family Association) that same-sex marriage would negatively affect his four daughters”.

He has been reported as saying that same-sex marriage undermined what he called a woman’s “secure relationship with a loving husband”.

By spending years in Canberra “wandering and getting closer to other women” and having an extra-marital affair with a staffer, Barnaby singlehandedly destroyed the “secure relationship” of his wife and that of his daughters.

Does Barnaby’s hypocrisy on what he labels “traditional” relationships and values point to double standards in his parliamentary record?

Pesty Barney

A Senate report found that Barnaby Joyce’s push to relocate the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) from Canberra to Armidale created widespread, ongoing negative impacts. The decision didn’t have the backing of the Liberal or National Party cabinet. APVMA personnel opposed the relocation with a large number of senior scientists resigning. A number of experts, organisations and farm leadership bodies also expressed concern regarding the relocation.

An article written in 2016 states: “The forced move of a public service agency from Canberra to northern NSW will rip more than $157 million a year from the capital’s economy as well as costing the ACT region 365 jobs”. The same article went on to say that “taxpayers were to be hit with a $25.6 million bill just to move the authority from Canberra to the heart of Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce’s northern NSW electorate.”

These figures were included in the cost-benefit analysis prepared by Ernst and Young for the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in August, 2016. The analysis also said: “The economic benefits for the Australian economy associated with moving the APVMA from Canberra to Armidale are modest”.

Following an ABC Four Corners episode, the senate requested the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Reference Committee conduct an inquiry into the APVMA relocation. The Committee’s report was released in February, 2019 and was highly critical of the decision to relocate.

The same report was also scathing of Barnaby’s decision to relocate the APVMA to his own electorate. Similar to the findings from the South Australian Royal Commission into the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, this raises additional serious questions regarding his ministerial suitability.

Free lunch Barney

In 1998, Barnaby Joyce established an accountancy practice — Barnaby Joyce & Co — in the Queensland town of St George. St George is located about an hour north of Dirranbandi, Cubbie Station and the properties Clyde and Kia Ora.

According to the information contained in the book The Social Life of Water published in 2013: “John Grabbe has long been a major player in the National Party, Cubbie Station sponsored the election of Barnaby Joyce’s senate campaign as senator for Queensland in Canberra and as leader of the Nationals in the Senate. Thus Cubbie Station has its own senator, Barnaby Joyce, a grateful recipient of donations from Cubbie and Grabbe, and a dogged advocate of Cubbie’s interests.”

Interestingly, during an interview this week with The Project journalist, Hamish McDonald, Barnaby admitted that the previous owners of Clyde and Kia Ora were clients of his accounting practice. There is nothing illegal with Barnaby providing accounting services to the previous owners of Clyde and Kia Ora, but it does raise questions regarding the possible involvement of large irrigators in campaign activities.

Gina’s Barney

There has long been an association between Barnaby Joyce and mining magnate and cattle baron Gina Rinehart. In 2011 it was reported Gina paid for Barnaby to travel to India to attend the lavish wedding of a granddaughter of an Indian billionaire engaged in delicate negotiations with the iron ore matriarch over purchase of two of her Queensland assets.

In November, 2017, Barnaby reportedly skipped a local candidates forum in his electorate to attend a dinner held as part of National Agriculture Day. During the dinner, hosted by Hancock Prospecting, Gina presented Barnaby with the inaugural National Agricultural and Related Industries prize stating that he is the “champion of farming”. Barnaby initially accepted the $40,000 prize saying he intended to spend the money on his property.

In June, 2018 Gina Rinehart’s eldest daughter Bianca Rinehart wanted her mother’s company to explain the $40,000 payment.

Gina Hancock is currently actively expanding her livestock business. It was reported in August, 2018 that Hancock Agriculture, Gina’s pastoral arm, purchased “Sundown Valley” near Kingstown, west of Armidale — one of the state’s best known and largest-scale cattle backgrounding and finishing operations — and the Gunnee feedlot near Inverell.

The Kingston community campaigned hard for a mobile tower and wanted it to be co-located with a police and emergency services tower at the highest point in the district. Instead, it was built on Gina’s Sundown Valley property.

Local resident Jeff Condren has called it an “epic fail”. “Now that the tower has been in operation for several weeks it’s evident the community concerns relating to the location and the service was well-justified,” he said.

An investigation into a phone tower on Gina Rinehart’s New England property has been filed with the Auditor-General, leaving the issue open-ended for New England voters.

Alternative to Barney

These and a number of other serious issues have occurred over the past twelve months, highlighting the need for a federal Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). While the Coalition has announced it will establish a Public Sector Integrity Commission it will lack any real investigative powers and would not be able to operate retrospectively. Given the seriousness of issues that have occurred, it demonstrates why it is imperative that a federal ICAC be established to rebuild voter’s trust.

We need politicians who are trustworthy, who respect all Australians, both male and female.

Adam Blakester, the Independent candidate for New England believes that true representation is ethical, transparent and above all inclusive. That is why I am supporting Adam Blakester.

This article previously stated that Barnaby Joyce was subpoenaed in association with Bianca Rinehart’s family trust investigations. In fact, the subpoena application failed.