Barnaby is back

When Warren Truss was leader of the National Party from 2007 to February 2016, just about no-one in the general public knew who he was. That was one of the reasons why Barnaby Joyce succeeded him.

Now lots of people know a lot about Barnaby for a variety or reasons, and a saw enough of his successor Michael McCormack this week to realise he was simply not up to the job. The numbers that matter are the 21 members of the federal National Party room. More than half prefer Barnaby Joyce, warts and all. So we have Barnaby Joyce victorious in Nationals leadership challenge.

I have to say that his deputy, David Littleproud, looked absolutely miserable next to Barnaby on TV, although he says he was just cold. Word is that Matt Canavan moved the spill motion, and Littleproud’s support made the difference, in the interests of longer term stability.

If so, strange thinking. As Jennifer Hewitt says in the AFR today:

    The public will now have a front row seat at Joyce’s more explosive brand of political fireworks. And he does bear grudges.

She says Joyce puts PM between a rock and a much harder place as Morrison attempts to manoeuvre his way through climate change policy and repair the government’s reputation among women.

Gabrielle Chann, a freelance journalist and the author of Rusted Off – why country Australia is fed up tells in Barnaby Joyce’s Nationals threaten to blow up any climate ambition, and it’s making life hard how Joyce in power was a huge negative for the interests he was meant to serve. Inter alia she says:

    in threatening to blow up any climate ambition, Joyce’s Nationals could shrink our markets for agricultural exports in less than two years.

Nick O’Malley in the SMH asks Should we pay a carbon tax to our own government or to someone else’s?

Bernard Keane at Crikey says:

    It’s less important who leads the Nationals than how they thwart climate action. But as NSW shows, it doesn’t have to be this way.

He blames the Queensland LNP (Liberal National Party):

    The difference with the federal government is the Queensland LNP. The extent to which the LNP is a toxic political rump that poisons the whole of politics in Australia is rarely acknowledged. The LNP is a party that thinks nothing of doing preference deals with far-right parties like One Nation, that continues to collaborate with Clive Palmer even as the billionaire has run his own party against it, that tolerated the antics of George Christensen for years, and quite happily undermined its own female state parliamentary leader.

He says:

    It is mostly LNP members of the Nationals — along with malcontents like Bridget “sports rorts” McKenzie — who were behind this latest, successful tilt by Barnaby Joyce to seize back the leadership of the party. Joyce might now be a NSW MP and hail from Tamworth but he started his political life in the Queensland Nationals and remains their once and future king.

    Joyce and his subfaction of denialists and reactionaries exert wildly disproportionate influence over climate policy — retarding serious action and making Australia an international climate pariah — because of the Liberal Party’s reliance on the Nationals.

At least it is now out in the open. When Malcolm Turnbull was in power we always knew that the Nationals would prevent effective climate action. Resistance came also from his own party. How far it went beyond Tony Abbott and Craig Kelly, I’m not sure, but Paula Matthewson in January 2020 found only 10 Liberals and at least one Nationals MP “who could be persuaded to speak out on the need for climate action”.

Notably Turnbull could never work out what Angus Taylor really thought. I think that is still the case for everyone, possibly including Taylor himself.

The Liberals are attempting to cover over the real problem, with Marise Payne says net zero is government’s ‘broad position’ as she plays down Nationals’ climate revolt.

However, a new Coalition agreement will now have to be formulated, plus a cabinet reshuffle with Matt Canavan, other climate deniers and Bridget Mackenzie to be accommodated.

With certainty, ‘net zero by 2050’ will be ruled out as a formal Coalition policy. However, it is almost certain also that the Nationals will demand at least one new coal-fired power station (it used to be three). This will likely happen in Queensland using northern development money, because commercial lenders won’t finance it.

Michelle Grattan this morning says that above all Nationals want a leader who will overtly stand up to Morrison, especially on net zero. Electorally:

    Morrison will be looking for a bright side. Joyce will be an asset, they’re saying in prime ministerial circles, in Queensland, the Hunter, and the Northern Territory.

Joyce entered parliament as a Queensland senator, and knows Queensland well. Remember here that Labor holds only six of 30 seats in Queensland and none north of Wayne Swan’s current seat of Lilley on Brisbane’s northside.

There is little doubt that this is true, but there is also little doubt that Joyce will be a negative for the Coalition in Southeast Queensland and the main population centres in the rest of Australia. Joyce also has problems in Western Australia (and women generally) where a sexual harassment complaint of a senior regional woman was only investigated by the party.

For Labor there is now a clear opportunity of product differentiation with the Coalition. Chris Bowen did well with Fran Kelly on ABC RN Breakfast with Barnaby Joyce accused of betraying rural Australia.

Can Albanese follow suit?

There is opportunity also in Government “stunned” by UNESCO’s move to declare the Great Barrier Reef ‘in danger’.

Actually, net zero by 2050 and 1.5°C won’t save the Great Barrier Reef. I’m really disappointed that I have to keep explaining that, but I will do so again.

Barnaby was all over the media today. The AFR front page was Climate war: Joyce vetoes PM. David Rowe had a suitable cartoon:

Andrew Tillet quoted this:

    Investor Group on Climate Change policy director Erwin Jackson agrees that potentially exporters could be hit with carbon tariffs but there were broader issues at stake.

    “Unless we commit to a strong 2030 target, investment will continue to go to countries that do,” Jackson says.

In other words, only action now will impress.

There is a real issue over how women feel about Joyce:

It’s more than regional women.

Peak farm groups are mostly on board with climate change, but many I know or know of think climate has always changed, but aerial carbon has nothing to do with it.

Today we have heard that Joyce will play along with minimal or no changes to cabinet. If so, you can put your money on an election in the spring, probably after the footy finishes.

Also yesterday:

15 thoughts on “Barnaby is back”

  1. Barnaby is already behaving as though he thinks he is prime minister and mug farmers will continue to vote National despite the effect of Barnaby think on farm viability – Just like farmers no longer do in Doug Anthony’s old electorate.

  2. Bernard Keane gets stuck in.

    Bridget McKenzie for Darren Chester? Is this how low Australian politics has sunk?

      To lose Darren Chester would be damaging to the government. To replace him with Bridget McKenzie would be truly appalling.

    He says the sports program she rorted was designed to be rorted:

      Worse, McKenzie was an incompetent rorter. She got found out by the Auditor-General, who forensically revealed her rorting. And she lost her job over the rorting, because she failed to declare a conflict of interest.

      In a government that is the most corrupt we’ve ever seen in federal politics, which regards pork-barrelling and rorting as standard political practice, and which is led by a man with a frequent and irresistible compulsion to lie, imagine being so bad you actually lose your job. That’s Bridget McKenzie.

    Darren Chester by contrast is valued by many veterans for the work he has done in that area, says Keane.

      The Nationals have a profound dearth of frontbench talent — one that contributes to the overall shallowness and incompetence of the Morrison government, especially since Mathias Cormann left. Chester is one of the few competent ministers in the government, and not too many are likely to ever have stakeholders pleading that they be left in their portfolios. Once again sending Chester to the backbench wouldn’t merely be an act of truly petty vindictiveness by Joyce — whose own failures as minister for agriculture have been repeatedly shown up since he was forced onto the backbench in 2018 in areas like water and animal welfare — but would inflict disproportionate damage to the government’s ministerial talent base.

      Promoting McKenzie in his place would redouble the damage, and signal that the most egregious abuse of power and rorting of taxpayer funds was perfectly acceptable. If the return of Barnaby Joyce to the deputy prime ministership is a moment when Australian politics scraped the bottom of the barrel, McKenzie is through the bottom and into the dirt beneath.

  3. Brian: “Scott Morrison asked to explain Barnaby Joyce’s role in Cabinet group on women’s safety and security.”
    “Allowing newly-appointed Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce to take part in a special Cabinet group designed to provide a fresh lens on women’s safety and security has been blasted as a “farce” and “unbelievable”.”
    To be fair, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham defended Mr Joyce’s place in the group : “During Senate Question Time, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham defended Mr Joyce’s place in the group, arguing that leaders from both the Liberal and Nationals should be included.
    “It is important in terms of the consideration of those matters of women’s safety and women’s economic security that the leadership of the government across the Coalition parties hears clearly on those issues of safety and economic security,” he told the Senate.
    “That is what the purposes of that taskforce… it’s why the Prime Minister is a member of the taskforce and co-chairs it with Senator Payne.”
    “It’s why the Deputy Prime Minister, Treasurer and myself as Minister for Finance are all there to ensure that it informs the decisions right across government as its intended to do.”
    I think Simon has a point but the best solution would been not to have Barnaby as leader of the Nats.

  4. Brian: Barnaby Joyce’s second coming has ruffled feathers — and thrown the government into chaos.”
    Interesting thing is that he got no support from National members in marginal seats.
    “Ken O’Dowd, who holds the Nationals’ most marginal seat of Flynn in central Queensland, backed Barnaby Joyce. O’Dowd is retiring at the next election, so won’t be trying to win over undecided voters with Barnaby by his side.
    The next three most marginal seat holders in the National Party are Kevin Hogan (Page 9.5 per cent), Pat Conaghan (Cowper 11.9 per cent) and Michelle Landry (Capricornia 12.4 per cent). All three wanted to stick with McCormack. The day before the vote, Landry even issued a public warning, telling “there would be women out there that would be unhappy” about a return to Joyce.
    Anne Webster, who holds the safer seat of Mallee (but is expected to face an independent challenger), also warned some constituents “would be very unimpressed” with a return to Joyce.
    So, for all the talk of Joyce being Australia’s greatest “retail politician”, those facing re-election in the most difficult seats felt otherwise.” Page in NE NSW, for example, has no coal mines, has a Greens lord mayor in Lismore and adjoins the state seat of Ballina which is held by the Greens.
    Then there are all the farmers who are getting nervous about the effect on their farms of climate change.

  5. I wouldn’t call those seats marginal, but I don’t know ABCs definition.

    Is Bandts 19 points considered marginal or safe ?

  6. John, I’ll have a closer look when we come to the election, but largish swings in Qld are not unknown. Which is what we had last time. However, in the inner city Labor increased its vote in Qld. The main issue we have is coloured green.

    Phil Coorey said today that provincial women don’t like Barnaby, but that won’t change their vote.

    However, the same does not apply elsewhere.

    Surprisingly, Coorey says that Joyce has some traction in the burbs.

    From what he has ferreted out he thinks Joyce is a mild positive. Apparently there are three Labor seats in the Hunter valley. Joyce may enable the Coalition to pinch one.

    Then the LNP expected Flynn, based on Bundaberg, but shaves the west of Rockhampton, to fall to Labor because Labor is running a popular mayor who used to be a miner. Joyce gives them a better chance of holding on, in part because he has always favoured the interests of miners over farmers, and farmers aren’t as numerous as they used to be.

    Labor’s chance of winning is in SEQ and WA, but it needs to at least hold the line elsewhere, especially in Sydney and Melbourne.

  7. “New Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has reshuffled the party’s frontbench, promoting his supporters and booting his detractors from Cabinet.”
    Doesn’t sound as though merit or portfolio importance had much to do with it.
    For example, Water and Resources Minister Keith Pitt retains his portfolios, but has been pushed out of Cabinet.
    His new leader has defended that decision, denying the Nationals are not giving the resources industry enough prominence in the ministry.
    “Keith Pitt will remain over this portfolio like a bad suit,” Mr Joyce said.
    “He’s been doing a great job, he will continue on doing a good job.”
    Bridget McKenzie returns to Cabinet almost 18 months after being forced to quit the frontbench during the sports rorts saga.
    She takes on the roles of Minister for Regionalization, Regional Communications and Regional Education.
    Senator McKenzie also picks up responsibilities for drought and emergency management, previously held by Deputy Nationals leader David Littleproud.
    Wonder what the voters think? Then again they stuck with kiwi Joh.

  8. It’s crazy, John. Bridget M has a charter to spread goodies as they see fit all over regional Australia.

    Chester was one of their better ministers.

    I’m not all that impressed with David Littleproud. His dad Brian was minister for education when I was there and had the reputation of being the laziest minister ever.

    David looks serious and a bit capable, but never seems to be able to do anything much. As Northern Development minister, he’s from southern Qld, which is another country from the north.

  9. Here’s Barnaby in full flight after he made a comment comparing COVID to measles and mumps, an mouthing off about universities:

      When asked by the journalist to reflect on whether this approach would cause problems in Melbourne, Joyce replied: “Of course. But in country areas we couldn’t really give a shit. We’ve got record exports of coal. Record exports of beef. But we look at Melbourne, and go, you can almost smell the burning flesh from here.

    Joyce once again illustrates why he should not be in politics at all, let alone in leadership.

  10. Good to know the law in NSW is no respecter of persons.

    Barnaby said it was an ‘oops’, but perhaps true to character.

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