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.
- 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.
- Kishor Napier-Raman at Crikey in With friends like these: Barnaby Joyce’s return a blow for the Coalition
Giles Parkinson (RenewEconomy) Nationals say no to net zero in extraordinary assault on climate and renewables
Michael Mazengarb (RenewEconomy) Barnaby Joyce returns as deputy PM as Nationals implode over net-zero targets