/ 22 June 2021

Barnaby Joyce is baaack…

“It’s called democracy,” outgoing Deputy PM Michael McCormack said yesterday after his Nationals colleagues voted him out as their leader, reinstalling his predecessor Barnaby Joyce. After a weekend of reports that a challenge was imminent, a spill was called yesterday morning, and Joyce was the victor. The margin of his victory wasn’t publicly disclosed – that’s not how the Nats do things, but reports this morning say it was 12-9 in Joyce’s favour… Agriculture Minister and potential future leadership candidate David Littleproud stays on as deputy leader. And McCormack was applauded for a classy exit. After that, there are questions about what happens next…

• What does it mean for the Coalition? His internal critics saw McCormack as too accommodating of the Liberals’ policy agenda, particularly on climate change. On that doozy, Joyce holds views that are nowhere near a target of net zero emissions by 2050. And it’s an issue to watch as PM Scott Morrison prepares for the next big international climate summit in November.

• Will Morrison and Joyce make a good team? It’s an important question as we head into the final stretch of this term of government with an election due in the next year. And Joyce is… let’s say… an unconventional politician. Some say that is his strength, particularly in an election campaign, but he hasn’t been easy for his own side to wrangle in the past.

• And will the Nats heal their divisions? It’s been a bruising period since revelations about Joyce’s private life saw him leave the top job in 2018. Some hold strong views about his suitability to lead, and in a party room of 21, there aren’t many places to hide…

Joyce will be sworn in today by Governor-General David Hurley, so expect to see him in the big chair during Question Time today as Morrison continues his stint in quarantine after his UK trip. It’s unclear how a ministerial reshuffle will pan out as talks between Joyce and Morrison on how their partnership will work get underway. And after that, strap yourself in for the new and improved Barnaby Joyce. “I’ve spent 3 years on the backbench and, you know, I hope I come back a better person,” he said yesterday.

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