Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce (Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

Why does Australia’s media take a fringe grouping like the National Party so seriously? Unrepresentative and undemocratic, it gets lathered up with the self-indulgence of the lovable rogue, white-washed with a romantic nostalgia. The Nationals feed it, crafting the mythology of the bush into provocative 21st century grabs for television and Facebook.

Barnaby Joyce is the expert at trolling the city-based media: on COVID (“we look at Melbourne and go, we can almost smell the burning flesh from here”) or on climate action (a menu of “sauteed gherkins and sashimi tadpoles”).

Yet strip off the carefully cultivated Akubra-and-moleskin knock-about appropriations and it’s clear what the National Party is: just one of a handful of small untethered groupings competing for the declining (and aging) pool of conservative voters in regional Australia.