The thin, but nonetheless very real, silver lining of the vast tropical low that is wreaking such havoc on the government at the moment is that Malcolm Turnbull will have a far better government without Barnaby Joyce. Getting rid of this incompetent flake and slapping the Nationals back into place will be just what the Prime Minister needs to start governing effectively.
As Crikey outlined on Monday, Joyce is a walking disaster. Everything he touches is a debacle. The current catastrophe of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is down to Joyce’s truculent refusal to do anything in water policy that didn’t pander to his irrigator mates — including making sure the states took their responsibilities seriously. In parliament, he is literally incoherent about his “new” portfolio, infrastructure, reflexively talking about another colossal Nationals waste of money, the inland rail, even when asked about Tasmanian projects. Politically, Joyce has mishandled every aspect of the revelations over the last week.
Worse than that, Joyce and his colleagues have been a deadweight on Turnbull, a significant part of the forces that have prevented the Prime Minister from fulfilling even a fraction of the expectations of moderate Liberals and progressives. On marriage equality, energy policy, climate action, foreign investment, the Nationals under Joyce have been a malignant force of reaction that have crippled Turnbull.
If Joyce is removed, the Nationals will still be in the Coalition. Tony Abbott will still keep trying to wreck the government. The right of the party will still need to be placated. Turnbull’s PMO — hung out to dry yesterday by the PM on that “not his partner” nonsense — will still be awful. But the Nationals will have no political authority. They are responsible for most of the drama that has beset the government over the last eight months, and none more so than the blithering incompetent Joyce. Freed of him, Turnbull can treat the Nationals as the junior partner they are and assert himself more effectively and with greater competence.