So here’s a question that emerges after Senator Joyce’s first working week as a serious politician: can flawed authenticity succeed at the top level of Australian politics? This morning, after ducking the issue yesterday, his leader Tony Abbott presented the case for the defence on the Seven Network:

Barnaby is on a learning curve but … he is an authentic. I think people are sick of politicians who just use the kind of polly-waffle that we so often hear. Sometimes he’s going to have to be corrected because he’ll get it wrong.

The case for the prosecution, meanwhile, has been unfolding in technicolour all week:

— “Joyce appears to have wandered off into policy whacko-land” — Damien Kingsbury, The SMH

— “There is not a single colleague in the Liberal Party that has any faith (in Senator Joyce). Everyone is just going tick, tick, tick, tick”. — anonymous Liberal MP, Herald Sun

— “A freak show … the bearded lady of Australian politics, he’s taken charge of economic policy. If he ever gets control of the public finances of this nation, God help Australia.” — Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner

If Abbott is right, Australian voters are prepared to reward political leaders who display unvarnished naturalness ahead of those who stick to highly disciplined behaviour. If he’s wrong — and the judgement will apply to Abbott and Joyce — there’s no place for loose cannons at the top of major political parties.

As for Crikey‘s coverage of the man Wayne Swan dubbed Barnaby Rubble yesterday, we’ll try to stick to the substance — with one exception. Today we’re launching a regular item called Barnabyisms.

Here’s the first one. Right about the same time Abbott was defending Barnaby’s “authenticity”, Barnaby was saying this:

“I talk to Tony all the time, we have a very constructive relationship, we have a very open relationship … it’s … not a s-xual relationship …” — February 5,  ABC Radio National Breakfast.