MUNGO MacCALLUM. The Barnaby Joyce slapstick soap opera.

Jun 4, 2018

We have had enough of Barnaby, and it is obvious that his own colleagues have too. The sooner he retires to his fractured love nest the better.  

The Barnaby Joyce slapstick soap opera came to yet another climax on Sunday night with the $150,000 television extravaganza.

Or at least I assume it did: for a moment I was piqued by the kind of morbid curiosity that attracts gawkers to car crashes, but decided that life was too short.

His latest rationale for his egregious hypocrisy and greed apparently goes back to his days in bible class: he didn’t blamed the beguiling serpent in his private Eden – Channel 7 that offered him the cash – but his already long-suffering partner Vicki Campion. “The woman tempted me,” he explained.

That would be the woman he accused of fathering another man’s child. Even after a few short weeks, it must be feared that this may not be a union made in heaven.

Joyce is clearly incorrigible and an ongoing embarrassment to the government of which he was deputy leader. But although he is the most prominent, he is far from the only one.

In the last fortnight we have seen undisciplined and deliberately reckless behaviour from Sussan Ley, Andrew Hastie, Senator Michaelia Cash, Greg Hunt and Craig Kelly to name but the most publicised. And there is the constant background static surrounding Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz and Kevin Andrew and their coterie, not to mention the ongoing distraction of serial disrupters like George Christensen.

These are only the more obvious – we have barely touched on the Senate, partly because it was not in full session; ad of course there are still the Labor Party and the minors and independent to consider. A full roll call of the offenders may well suggest that the entire parliament is all but anarchic.

This is obviously not true – it still has its rational moments. But the public perception of chaos and dysfunction, in which the decisions making is confined to short term party advantage and debate is no more than schoolyard abuse and bullying is the one that increasingly persists.

And for that, like so much, the buck goes back to the top. Malcolm Turnbull has failed to instill respect in his own party, and as a result, the politics of fear and loathing have trickled down through the ministry, the backbench, the parliament as a whole, the media and finally the voters.

What is worse the prime minister seems resigned to the idea: he has long given up his pledge to respect the intelligence of the electorate and is now opting for little more than survival, in the hope that he will be seen as marginally less horrible than Bill Shorten.

It might even work, but he and his crew of rebellious followers have ensured that the polity has already been severely damaged in the process. Barnaby Joyce is merely the most obvious pratfaller to exemplify Turnbull’s failure of leadership.

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