Barnaby Joyce got jumped on earlier in the week when he told The Australian: “I really am struggling now to work out how Labor’s stance is that different from WorkChoices”. But why aren’t his other comments from the same story being examined more closely?

Kevin Rudd has warned of a double dissolution election if a Labor government’s new IR laws were blocked.

Joyce said: “If we take a hammering in this election, then what would happen to us in a double dissolution would be political death.”

But Joyce isn’t looking at the election after next. He’s simply looking at how things might be after Saturday night. It seems that Joyce thinks that ACT Liberal Gary Humphries is in trouble and the make up of the Senate could immediately change.

“We might have the Greens with the balance of power,” Lindsay Tanner has warned in the past.

“Labor might have to do some of the mad things they want.”

The Greens have happily accepted donations from the wilder fringe of the trade union movement their campaign material contrasts their lock, stock and barrel pledge to throw out WorkChoices, compared to Labor’s position.

Joyce is an idiosyncratic politician. He believes in the Senate as a house of review. He believes Senators should not be constrained by party power. He also believes they should accept the mandate of the people and the government they elect in the House of Representatives. No doubt he also believes that the final shape of the new Senate might be along the same lines as Richard Farmer suggested in Crikey yesterday.

Joyce appears to believe we could see a position where 33 Labor Senators might want the support of South Australian Independent Nick Xenophon, Family First’s Steve Fielding and four Nationals. That could makes the Greens irrelevant – and make the Nats the go-to people. And that would do wonders for his party.

In South Australia, the state’s sole Nationals MP is a member of the Labor cabinet. The Nats in Western Australia are now independent of the Libs. Many years ago, the Country Party kept Labor in power in Victoria.

If the Liberals lose big time and drag their Coalition colleagues down with them in seats like Flynn and Dawson and Hinkler, the Nats will want to be much more assertive to preserve their position. They may even decide to go it alone. And that will suit the ALP. If Rudd can mix and match his options with his bills, he will be happy. If the Nationals become the Senate powerbrokers, they will be happier still.

It would work wonders for Joyce’s chances when he’s up for re-election at the election after this.

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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