The radicalisation of a future prime minister.
It was a big call by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Prior to addressing the United Nations on Australia’s 2029 bid for a seat on the Security Council, she told the media that young Wyatt Roy would be prime minister of Australia by then.
“I don’t believe I will still be foreign minister at that time. I will leave that up to prime minister Wyatt Roy in 2029,” she said.
At 20, Roy was the youngest MP elected to the House of Representatives for the Queensland seat of Longman at the 2010 election. By September 2015, he’d risen to Assistant Minister for Innovation after supporting current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the coup that overthrew Tony Abbott.
He made headlines early in 2016 when likening part of his portfolio to a taco advertisement, bringing guffaws from the ABC Q&A audience.
“The other point that I would make is just because we’re making strong investments into greater industry collaboration around universities and getting that research out into the real world to create these new businesses, products and services, it doesn’t mean that that detracts from what’s happening in start ups,” he said
“I actually get very frustrated in this debate when people say it’s one versus the other and the analogy that I kind of use is, you know that taco ad where you’ve got the girl where everyone is arguing about whether you want hard tacos or soft tacos and she turns around and she says “Well, why can’t we have both?”, he asked.
Not even Bishop could have predicted Roy would later lose his seat later. The LNP won on first preferences with 39.0 percent of the vote but a large number of One Nation votes (9.4pc) strategically preferenced toward Labor’s to Susan Lamb.
The fallout from the Peter Slipper Diary scandal (AshbyGate) may have been a key component. Roy didn’t rule out a vendetta against him from former friend, James Ashby, who was now a key adviser at One Nation.
“We’ve seen One Nation both here and in the seat of Herbert do unique things with their preferences,” he said.
“In Herbert they ran a split ticket, here on some how-to-vote cards they preferenced Labor.”
It was Roy’s surprise incursion into Iraq that mortified Julie Bishop last week, labeling him a ‘thrillseeker’ after it was reported he came under fire from Daesh forces whilst visiting the Peshmerga. She made it clear his trip was nothing to do with the government and that no Australians should be going to either Iraq or Syria.
“Mr Roy travelled to Iraq as a private citizen. He was not there in any official capacity, he was not there for work purposes. He was essentially a tourist and by travelling to northern Iraq it is one of the most dangerous hot spots on Earth. He put himself at a very high-risk of injury or death or capture by this terrorist organisation ISIL, and we know what this organisation has done to those that it captures. And I think there would have been a very significant, and justifiable public outcry, if Australian Government resources had to be diverted from the fight against ISIL in Iraq to rescue or evacuate Wyatt Roy because he was in such a dangerous situation.”
“I have been consistently warning Australians not to travel to Syria and Iraq. Indeed, there are parts of both countries that are out of bounds for Australian citizens. It’s an offence to travel there and I do not want to encourage any thrill seekers to go over to Iraq and Syria and observe what is going on. This is a war. There is a conflict of mammoth proportions in both Syria and Iraq and our formal official government advice is do not travel there.”
Yet, despite the public shellacking, Roy told the media by video link from Dubai that he would go back and he was just unlucky to come under Daesh attack.
“Of course. I think it’s important to make the distinction between Iraq and Kurdistan,” he answered.
Justifying the venture, he wrote in The Australian, “The advantage of doing an unofficial trip is the low profile — instead of getting whisked around on a whistlestop tour, you can really take the time to get out on the ground. So given a unique opportunity to access the liberated town of Sinjar, or Shingal as they call it in Kurdish, I took it, keen to see for myself the realities of Daesh’s brutality and the challenges for those remarkable people facing them down.”
Columnist Andrew Bolt backed Roy as an intrepid “hope-to-be journalist”. Interesting description considering he never graduated from his arts degree in political science and international relations at the University of Queensland. Bolt went onto condemn Bishop’s approach as “spiteful”.
When former Northern Territory Labor Party president Matthew Gardiner returned home from his jaunt in Syria he was met by Australian Federal Police. In Roy’s case it appears he wasn’t in a designated Iraq no-go zone so may escape equivalent scrutiny with Turnbull only promising a ‘debriefing’.
Upon losing his seat of Longman, Roy wrote,
“There is a saying that almost all political careers end in tears. Well for me, this is not true. Though my heart is heavy for my incredible staff and our amazing army of dedicated volunteers, I am so proud of everything we achieved together for our community and country and I’m looking forward to the next exciting chapter of life,” he wrote.
Can Roy recover and go on to become prime minister as Bishop once predicted? No doubt, in time he’ll be forgiven by the conservatives and the public will have forgotten.
Radical? Fool? Given the unpredictable nature of Australian politics and despite what his political parents may think of him right now, he may yet grow up to be the political Messiah of 2029.