Queensland Nationals senator Matt Canavan decided that tweeting a joke about the terrifying Taliban takeover in Afghanistan is apparently in decent taste, and it’s so cooked that even his fellow Nationals are calling him out.
Hours after the Taliban reclaimed Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul, which has terrifying implications for the civilians that are now desperately trying to escape the country and seek refuge, senator Matt Canavan decided to post a tweet asking about whether the Taliban will *checks notes* meet international milestones for emissions reductions? Because that’s really what’s on our minds, hey.
Does anyone know whether the Taliban will sign up to net zero?— Matthew Canavan (@mattjcan) August 15, 2021
The tweet was obviously meant to be some kind of shitty joke and it backfired immediately for obvious reasons.
Considering the very real terror people are experiencing right now, Canavan’s comments drew swift condemnation from other Nationals, including former Nationals leader Michael McCormack. Which, you know, is kind of a big deal considering McCormack is also the guy who compared the Capitol riots to BLM.
Disappointing, insensitive & unnecessary. To compare climate policy with the bloodshed on the streets of Kabul is out of place & unworthy of a member of the Australian Parliament. Our thoughts today should be for the Afghan people & the families of our brave fallen Diggers. pic.twitter.com/P0Y380tw6h— Michael McCormack (@M_McCormackMP) August 16, 2021
McCormack wasn’t the only one calling out Canavan either, with Nationals Gippsland MP Darren Chester calling the tweet “disrespectful” and “offensive.”
Matt Canavan doesn’t speak for me. This tweet is offensive, disrespectful and totally lacking in any compassion for the 41 brave Australians who lost their lives, the families who grieve for them, the 39,000 Australians who served in this conflict, and the people of Afghanistan. pic.twitter.com/P6voSN34Hw— Darren Chester MP (@DarrenChesterMP) August 16, 2021
Nationals backbencher Anne Webster said she was appalled by the statement and distanced herself from it.
I am appalled by this statement. Afghanistan is under siege. People are afraid and losing their lives. Australian soldiers have lost their lives to protect this nation. I absolutely disassociate myself from this comment.— Anne Webster (@AnneWebsterMP) August 16, 2021
Even Deputy PM and leader of the Nationals party Barnaby Joyce has stepped in, saying that climate change and the “dire situation” in Afghanistan shouldn’t be conflated. According to The Australian, Joyce said he’s spoken to Canavan (who was his former chief of staff) “not only as a colleague, but as a friend.”
“We have women having their eyes gouged out, people being arbitrarily murdered. Twelve-year-old girls being sent into sexual slavery,” Joyce said.
“And this incredibly dire situation continues as we try to get Australians and those who have reasonable access to come to Australia out of Afghanistan.”
Insensitive, thoughtless, arrogant, immature, and having a good old laugh as men, women and children flee for their lives.— Lisa Wilkinson (@Lisa_Wilkinson) August 16, 2021
AND a member of our federal government.
You are a national disgrace @mattjcan pic.twitter.com/KynirDtCnU
You’d think that after all this backlash, Matt Canavan would at least apologise — but nope. Instead, he said his comments were designed to “rattle the cage” and that he’s okay to “cop that criticism.”
“But I’m okay to cop that criticism, if it can highlight the questions that need to be asked about why our priorities have been so misplaced for so long,” Canavan told The Australian.
“We’d love to chew gum and walk at the same time. But the reality is, when we get distracted with these other big issues, we do take our eye off the ball on things like Afghanistan, and that’s clearly happened.”
While eventually agreeing the tweet was “divisive”, Canavan said he was using it as a way to spark discussion about “misplaced priorities in the West”, especially regarding the military.
He questioned why the Australian military is so focused on “diversity and inclusion issues”, when intelligence had gotten this “so wrong”. He said there needed to be a “serious investigation” into the “debacle”.
Personally, that sounds fucking ridiculous to me, but it wouldn’t be very on brand for Australian leadership if it didn’t.