Opposition
parties were congratulating themselves on their Tuesday night coup in
coaxing Barnaby Joyce across the floor. The real question is: who
hatched the plot? Compare and contrast the different versions of the
event offered today in the Fairfax broadsheets.

The press
gallery’s grand dame, Michelle Grattan, offers this version, in which
the star of proceedings is Labor frontbencher Stephen Conroy: “Coalition stung by senator“.

While down the corridor, SMH hack
Mike Seccombe lauds the Democrats, and their spokesman on electoral
matters, Andrew Murray, as the brainiac behind the master plan: “Braveheart Barnaby

Our
conclusion: Stephen Conroy pulled a swiftie on Michelle. Quite a
cunning stunt from an operator dismissed by Mark Latham in the
following terms: “What planet is that guy from? First he wrecks
Beazley’s Budget reply by saying tax increases are on the agenda. Then
he tries to convince Crean to support the war in Iraq. Now he’s telling
me that attacking Public Enemy Number One, the parliamentary super
scheme, will be a disaster…” (p266 The Diaries)

The Australian, meanwhile, having written the whole event off yesterday as “hollow,” rediscovered the yarn today. Writes Dennis Shanahan:
“John Howard is fighting to quell bitter divisions within the Coalition
and restore his reform agenda after Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce
derailed the Government’s Senate majority.” Now that’s an about-face.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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