Barnaby Joyce And Malcolm Turnbull Are Now In Open Warfare, And We Are Here For The Drama

Barnaby Joyce

It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. The two most senior politicians in the country — the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister — are engaged in a very public civil war, with neither backing down.

Barnaby Joyce has fired back at Malcolm Turnbull’s comments on Thursday, calling them “inept” and “unnecessary”, after the PM basically called on Joyce to resign.

In case you missed it, yesterday the Prime Minister threw Joyce under the bus, saying the Deputy PM had shown terrible judgement by engaging in an affair with a staffer, and suggesting Joyce should use his upcoming “personal leave” to consider his position.

That was basically the PM’s way of telling Barnaby to piss off, which is the strongest thing the PM can do in this situation, because Turnbull is the leader of the Liberal party, and Joyce is the leader of the Nationals, meaning Turnbull can’t force Joyce to step down.

So What Did Joyce Say?

When Joyce called an 11.30 press conference this morning, a lot of people thought he might be about to fall on his sword. But nooooope.

In fact, at the same time the press conference was called, Turnbull was holding his own conference in Tasmania, and had to admit he didn’t even know what Barnaby was going to say, which is really, really not how things are supposed to work.

Then Joyce stepped up and gave it to the PM with both barrels. After apologising (again) to his estranged wife, children, new partner and constituents, Joyce took aim at the PM.

“I have to say that, in many instances, [the PM’s comments]… caused further harm. I believe they were in many instances inept and most definitely in many instances unnecessary,” he said. “I listened to it and I thought that was completely unnecessary, and all that is going to do is basically pull the scab off for everybody to have a look at.” 

Joyce then criticised the PM for appearing to interfere in the Nationals’ affairs, which is something the Nats are always touchy about because they don’t like it when their big brother tries to tell them what to do.

“I will not be making comments about the leadership of the Liberal Party and would not expect comments about the leadership of the National Party,” he said.

The Deputy PM was then asked how he could possibly continue to work with a Prime Minister he had just called inept.

“I am intending to make sure that, like all relationships, this relationship gets back onto an even keel,” he said. “I stand by my statement that I am leader of the National Party and he is the leader of the Liberal Party and it is incredibly important for our nation that these two parties get together and work closely.”

What It All Means

It means the whole Barnaby Joyce shitshow will continue for at least a few more days. Joyce is taking personal leave from next week, and the PM is out of the country (as is Julie Bishop, which means Matthias Cormann is acting PM).

It’s impossible to think that Joyce and the PM can work together now that they have so publicly criticised each other — but that’s exactly what Joyce seems intent on doing.

Meanwhile, Nationals MPs have criticised the PM’s “Bonk Ban”, and declared “open season” on Turnbull. It’s not clear what that means yet, but it’s not good for the PM, who already has a tenuous grip on power. At worst, the Nationals could tear up the Coalition agreement that’s currently holding the government together. If that happens, all bets are off and we could be headed to an election real soon.

Meanwhile Labor is just sitting back and quietly laughing. The government has just written an entire election campaign’s worth of ads for them — and all they’ll need to do is show the government’s leaders talking about each other.

Before the press conference was even over, the Labor sledges had started: