Barnaby Joyce is Probably Finished in Politics
Barnaby Joyce is probably toast when it comes to politics even if there is no evidence exposed of the abuse of public funds or petty corruption related to the appointment of his current partner to a senior position in Matt Canavan’s office.
At the moment it seems that Mr Joyce will be found to be innocent of any breach of public duty.
What will bring Mr Joyce down is pure politics.
He’s a retail politician (possibly the best in Australia) who’s made a career of representing conservative values.
His problem is that he has demonstrated, through his treatment of his wife, that he doesn’t hold these values.
While this might pass unnoticed in urban electorates (a senior Labor front bencher has had an affair with a member of staff and left his wife for her) it will not go down well in rural and regional electorates where adherence to strong moral codes is more pronounced.
As a consequence party elders John Anderson and Larry Anthony are in crisis meetings over Mr Joyce future as leader of the Nationals.
Barnaby Joyce has not been a blinding success as a minister.
Rather than building a consistent approach to economic development in the bush he has tended to favour pork barrelling.
His strength lies in the fact that he’s good on the stump, particularly during elections, and has almost single-handedly stopped the onslaught on National Party electorates by One Nation.
At the moment conservatives are disillusioned with the Turnbull government for a raft of reasons but in the country they have stuck with the Nats because they believe the party embodies conservative values.
The fact that the leader of the National Party has now eschewed these values is likely to lead to a drift away to other conservative parties such as Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives.
The Deputy Prime Minister is likely to be an embarrassment to Malcolm Turnbull.
The fact that he’s in line to be the Acting Prime Minister whenever Mr Turnbull is out of the country is likely to impact on the level of trust in the government which is already at a low ebb.
Finally the media is angry that it has been treated like mugs by Mr Joyce.
He’s now fair game and they will turn over every rock in the hope of finding something they can pin on him.
It may be possible for him to ride out a concerted media campaign – Julia Gillard did it – but in the end it will come at the cost of the Coalition maintaining government.
Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals will not tolerate this and there will be heavy lobbying behind the scenes to get Barnaby to pull the plug.
However the government will be anxious to avoid another bye-election in New England so there will probably be a two stage process: firstly Mr Joyce will quit the leadership of the Nationals, handing it over to Matt Canavan, then he’ll announce that he won’t stand at the next election.
Once he quits Parliament he will probably land a high paying job working for Gina Rinehart.
In the Greek tragedies hubris is always followed by nemesis, a lesson that Barnaby Joyce is only beginning to learn.