When Celeste Barber was making mocking pastiches of celebrity Instagram photos, it was funny and fresh. The problem, though, is that it made Barber a minor celebrity in her own right, and, like all celebrities, she has proceeded to use her fleeting moment in the C-grade sun as a political soapbox. As celebrities will too, she has forgotten that charity is not meant to be an exercise in self-aggrandisement.

She’s also learning the hard way that politics is the art of the possible – and her big mouth is coming back to haunt her.

Celeste Barber and the NSW Rural Fire Service are planning to seek direction from the state’s Supreme Court that would allow them to release millions of dollars raised by the comedian over the summer to help victims of bushfires and wildlife charities.

The RFS confirmed to The Australian on Thursday morning that it hoped it would be able to have the terms of its Trust – which holds more than $52m in donations raised via Barber’s appeals during the crisis – altered so the money could be dispensed to those most in need.

Under the NSW Rural Fire Service and Brigades Donation Fund’s current terms, the money can only be spent on training, equipment and facilities for local brigades, but Ms Barber solicited donations from over one million people for the fund under the impression the money could be spread around.

Not a single cent of the $52 million has been spent so far.

It’s all very easy for celebrities to mouth off from their little stumps, but not so easy to actually get things done, is it, Celeste?

Peter Garrett found this the hardest possible way, too. Having built a career on shouting trite political slogans, Garrett was swanned into politics by a star-struck Labor party desperate for some celeb power. And it all went tits-up, as Garrett floundered and cocked up even his chosen portfolio of the environment.

When we say that “politics is the art of the possible”, it’s not just an empty slogan. Whatever we may think of them, politicians of all stripes face any number of hurdles to “get things done”. Not only do they have to herd the cats of a parliament full of other politicians into agreeing with them, they have to ascend mountain ranges of rules, red tape and bureaucracy.

This summer’s bushfires are a perfect case in point. While it was all very easy for the peanut gallery to shout and stamp their feet that “ScoMo should send in the army!”, it just doesn’t work like that. Australia is a federation: the Commonwealth just can’t deploy the army within Australia, willy-nilly. A prime minister has to wait for a state government to invite them to do so. NSW refused completely, while Victoria dithered until hundreds of people were stranded on the beaches of East Gippsland.

Now Celeste Barber is learning the hard way just how difficult it can be to “get things done” in the face of bureaucracy and red tape. Maybe she might have learned a little humility as a consequence, but apparently not.

“We‘re on to it – so much so – I know the f..king Supreme Court might be throwing their backs into it a little bit to find out if we can distribute it,” she said in a message to her followers.

“We’re not f..king around … we’re taking it really seriously.”


So, she’s refusing to take responsibility for her own cock-up. On top of which, she’s still bad-mouthing the prime minister at every turn, including hogging the stage at a charity gig. Many viewers took to social media to express their distaste for her constant, petty politicking during what was supposed to be a charity event.

But, for all her big-mouthing, not a cent of the $52 million that people donated in good faith has been spent.

Making an effective difference is not as easy as posting photos on Instagram after all, is it?

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