Barnaby Joyce has come out in force today, refusing to back down. “I’m not going anywhere,” he told Fairfax Media in a fresh interview, describing the campaign against him as a “witch hunt”. The problem for Barnaby is that the situation isn’t so much an active witch-hunt as it is one of many limpet mines attached to the hull of his political career.

Here, Crikey writers identify and briefly explain these time bombs, whose ominous tick-tocking threatens to blow Barnaby’s world apart. We’ve also given each point a bomb rating (aka explosion factor) scored out of a possible three.

Skeletons in the closet

That scurrying you may hear is journalists around the country calling a second cousin or a pub owner in Tamworth to see if they have any gossip about Joyce’s private life. Should their efforts be rewarded, that’s going to be some irreparable damage.

Tele-scoping for more angles

Ten front pages in a row. The Tele knew this would be a big story from the beginning and they’re unlikely to stop pursuing it anytime soon. Today, the story is Natalie Joyce asking for her husband not to lose his job, but alongside that is a spread on “Barnaby Joyce and Vikki Campion in pictures”. The Tele may briefly be turning their attention to Geoffrey Rush but it’s more than likely they’ll be revisiting our Kiwi Deputy PM.

Potential professional scandals

Just like journos will be chasing the tail of any indiscretion stories, many will be tasked with finding another way to carry the narrative of Joyce as untrustworthy. Add an expenses scandal, for example, to the headlines and Joyce must surely go the way of Bronwyn Bishop. 

Trauma of a tell-all 

One of the problems for Joyce in this particular scandal is that he is not the only person implicated and therefore at least two other women could give their version of events. Natalie Joyce, who is in the News Corp papers today pleading for her husband to retain his job, has surely been fielding enquiries from all the women’s mags. That tell-all interview with accompanying photoshoot will also bring the scandal roaring back into the headlines.

Joyce’s Daughters

All the above, but for Joyce’s four daughters, who appeared in a photoshoot with him in The Australian only days before the New England poll last year.

Tony Windsor

As we established here, the former New England member is a perpetual thorn in Joyce’s side. His beef with Joyce and the Nats is long and he will likely keep lobbing grenades on social media until the headlines proclaim “man down”.

Death by a thousand paper cartoonists

David Rowe, the AFR’s cartoonist, painted the Nationals as farm animals. Mark Knight for the Herald Sun had him (as did Crikey) as a failed contestant in the Winter Olympic games. David Pope in the Canberra Times portrayed the Deputy PM as a bloated, dying river fish in the Murray-Darling Basin. The consistency of these images will continue for weeks and months, slowly whittling away at Joyce’s credibility.

Fit to deputise

Every time Malcolm Tunbull heads overseas, the Deputy PM takes his role. It’s in the job description. But henceforth, every time Malcolm Turnbull heads overseas, there’ll be a reminder that Joyce was once deemed by Turnbull to be unfit for acting in the position, and for that matter unfit to be Deputy PM either. Joyce can’t conveniently go on leave every time Turnbull wants to go to Washington or attend a summit.

Baby photoshoot

While a newborn is always cause for celebration, Joyce may struggle to see it as such if the impending baby brings his marital indiscretion back into the headlines. On the other hand, the embattled Nats leader could use a loving photoshoot with a soft interview to bring his reputation back into the black.

Leaky ships

Joyce yesterday accused Turnbull, his office and other Liberals of leaking against him (and Joyce’s allies have warned that two can play that game). If the Liberals really want to get rid of Joyce, ongoing leaking is the most likely way they’ll do it. The Paul Grimes scandal, the collapse of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and the criminal behaviour of irrigators, the 2017 reshuffle Joyce used to go after his internal rivals, the ridiculous transfer of a government agency to his own electorate — there’s plenty of ammunition for his Liberal enemies to fire at him.

The ever-unpredictable election trail

Virtually the only time in politics that senior politicians actually face an uncontrolled environment now is on the election trail when they have to interact with actual voters rather than those of us in the Canberra bubble. Joyce has already had to face voters prepared to deride him for his personal failings. How much more often will that happen now that the secret is out? And how effective a campaigner will Joyce be if he’s constantly worried a voter will yell “say hello to your mistress”.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey