Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by Jamieson Murphy, a journalist at the Northern Daily Leader.
IF you haven't seen Barnaby Joyce's bizarre 15-minute exchange with medicinal cannabis advocates in a Tamworth movie theatre last week, you might want to do that here before reading on. It will give you more of a sense of what I'm talking about.
And that is Barnaby Joyce's apparent flip-flopping attitude towards medicinal cannabis. He seems to have gone from a position of outright opposition, to one of support, and then strangely, back to one of opposition, or at least scepticism.
So what's happened to cause this perceived backflip?
In early 2016 medicinal cannabis was a hot-button issue. The federal government had changed legislation to allow cannabis to be grown for medicinal purposes. Victoria became the first state to legalise it and Mr Joyce officially opened Australia's first medicinal cannabis farm near Tamworth, backed by New England-based medicinal cannabis campaigner Lucy Haslam.
He was vocal in his support at the time. "When you can find a use for any part of a plant that can assist people when they are ill, when they are in pain, you should do it," he said.
Fast forward three years and Ms Haslam is lobbying the government to make it easier for patients to access medicinal cannabis - in the face of laws which are so strict that it's easier for them to source medicinal cannabis on the blackmarket than to acquire it legally via a doctor.
I interviewed Mr Joyce and was somewhat surprised by his change in position. Gone was that previous vocal support. He seemed to be angry, referring to "snake oil salesmen" and talking about medicinal marijuana "not" being a cure for cancer. Just to be clear, Ms Haslam and many other medical cannabis advocates don't claim it cures cancer, rather that it can help ease the brutal symptoms associated with treatment regimens.
During our interview Mr Joyce talked about the psychoactive properties of THC (the chemical that gets you high), which isn't present in medical cannabis. It's something he also raised during his theatre exchange with Ms Haslam, following last week's screening of the medicinal cannabis documentary High as Mike, when he talked about his own college experiences and the death of his brother, Tim, who died from bowel cancer - the same cancer that took the life of Ms Haslam's son Dan in 2015. Mr Joyce's brother passed away from the disease in mid 2018.
So is his grief influencing his thinking? That would be understandable.
I believe this quote, pulled from the video of the Tamworth theatre exchange is pretty telling:
"That does not mean for one second that there is some grand elixir or ... that there is some hope that somehow my brother Timothy would be alive if this happened. I get furious with that."
There's nothing wrong with politicians changing their mind - in fact, I think we need more of it.
That said, if a politician does change their mind, then their supporters probably want to know why.
journalist, Northern Daily Leader