Flat White

Their ABC presents: Jimmy Barnes, the China expert of the Largs Piers Hotel

3 December 2020

7:30 PM

3 December 2020

7:30 PM

Jimmy Barnes is better known for his screaming than for his expertise on foreign affairs which, of course, makes him the perfect person to pontificate about international diplomacy on the ABC.

The ageing rocker told Q&A on Monday that Australia’s feud with China could have been avoided if Prime Minister Scott Morrison had been more culturally sensitive.

Well sure. And England’s feud with Germany could have been avoided if Neville Chamberlain had spoken in softer tones to the Fuhrer.

Jimmy Barnes didn’t mention the ‘cultural sensitivity’ displayed by China when, having realised coronavirus had escaped (or was it released) from a wet market (or was it a lab) they shut down domestic travel but continued to export the virus overseas.

He ignored the ‘culturally sensitivity’ on show when China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Lijian Zhao, accused the US army of seeding the virus in China.

And he failed to mention the ‘cultural sensitivity’ demonstrated by China spreading fake photographs depicting an Australian solider beheading an Afghan child.

None of that was relevant. It was Scott Morrison who needed a lesson in manners.

Jimmy ‘The Last Plane Out Of Wuhan’ Barnes said the PM’s call for an inquiry into the origins of the Chinese Flu, which spread from China to the world, had needlessly upset the Chinese. 

“We can’t just expect… if we’re Australians and we say, ‘This is wrong, we’ve got to bloody stand up to it’ that may not culturally be the same way to speak to the Chinese,” he said, in a monologue that almost made Joe Biden look articulate.

Warming to his new-found role as a geo-political expert, Barnes, likened China’s expansionist plans to those of the British after the Industrial Revolution and to the US after World War II.

“China is doing what the Americans did, what the British Empire did — empires get strong,” he said. “Whoever’s financially doing that well, they grow and they try to take over the world. This is the nature of things.” 

As Barnes himself once sang, “He’s a simple man with a heart of gold in a complicated land”, but not even a working-class man drunk on cheap wine and sporting a three-day growth would be so simple as to suggest a moral equivalence between China and the West. 

You could more credibly suggest a vocal equivalence between Jimmy Barnes and Frank Sinatra.

I’m not sure that any of the Uyghur people currently wallowing in Chinese re-education camps, given the chance to come under American or British rule, would shrug their shoulders and reply “Meh. What’s the difference?”

But in fairness to Jimmy Barnes, he has never claimed to be an expert on politics. It was, after all, the ABC who invited him on television to talk about foreign affairs.

Next time Q&A decide to discuss the intricacies of international diplomacy and foreign relations, they might want to try someone else. There’s a new JJJ favourite who calls herself Alex the Astronaut. She might be able to bring a big picture perspective.

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