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Barnaby's brutal act of bastardry that explains why people hate our politicians


Barnaby Joyce’s return to the National Party leadership has already led to a couple of dog acts, and Queensland can number itself among the losers, writes Dennis Atkins

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When Barnaby Joyce called his Nationals colleague Darren Chester to dump him from not just Cabinet but the ministry altogether, the Gippsland MP was walking his dog.

Chester, who is as polite and generous as Joyce is spiteful and mean, says his leader was “incoherent”.

The former Minister, who on Monday apologised to Australians for the way his party spent the last week of Parliament obsessing about itself, said Australians should brace themselves for more incoherence from his newly reinstalled leader.

“We didn’t have harsh words at all, it was just a matter-of-fact conversation,” Chester said on television on Monday. “He was sacking me. I didn’t agree with him, and I got on with the walk I was having with my dog.”

Chester was the minister for veterans affairs – a position he loved and a job he undertook with diligence and the support of almost everyone representing returned servicemen and women.

The peak bodies covering veterans  – the Alliance of Defence Service Organisations, the Australian Defence Association and the Defence Force Welfare Association – urged Joyce not to dump Chester This didn’t matter. Chester’s card was marked the moment he made it clear he didn’t want Joyce back and was sticking with Michael McCormack.

Dumping Chester is the worst and ugliest act of nasty vengeance in the Joyce ministerial “reshuffle”. A popular, hardworking and successful minister is pushed out of the way for someone of less experience and talent – in this case central New South Wales politician Andrew Gee – who failed to make any impression as junior minister for decentralisation and regional education.

If you want a brutal example of why the public hate politics and politicians, just look at the way Chester has been treated. It’s an act of bastardry with no justification and no redeeming feature.

For Queensland, and the national economy, the Joyce gambit had another selfish and indulgent insult. Keith Pitt, the Central Queensland Resources Minister, has kept his portfolio but been dumped to the outer ministry.

What does it say about the importance Joyce really places on resources – the communities supporting mining from Clermont to the Hunter to the Kimberley – and the economic power these exports provide? It says this is all expendable and can be transacted in a self-interested powerplay.

The fact this was entirely done without thought or much care is evident in the fact Pitt, as a junior minister, has no senior minister in Cabinet to report to and the government now has to scramble to find one. It will be a Liberal, either Angus Taylor or Christian Porter. Nice play, Barnaby.

It’s clear Joyce doesn’t care if there’s nothing in it for him. He says Pitt will still be the voice of resources and would “remain over this portfolio like a bad suit”. That could mean anything but is most probably a taste of the incoherence we were warned about by Chester.

It is a slap at the resources sector and the fact Scott Morrison apparently endorsed it all condemns the transactional deals behind the marriage of the Nationals and Liberals uniting the Coalition.

Another piece of incoherence arrives with the return of sports rorts minister Bridget McKenzie, who is back in Cabinet with the overarching title of “Regionalisation”. What the heck does that mean? Nothing.

It is another way of saying decentralisation and is used in mainly Latin nations such as Spain, Portugal, Columbia and Venezuela. It has no history in Australia and no relevance to our political system. Joyce is making it up as he goes along.

Here’s why Joyce was returned to the Nationals leadership and became deputy prime minister again. He told his colleagues he wasn’t going to be around for long and would hand over to David Littleproud perhaps after the election. Believe that when you see it.

In the short term, Littleproud has been insulted with the loss of his responsibility for emergency management – a job he has performed with great skill and determination.

Second, Joyce promised a number of people promotion. He has delivered on those bribes and, as a consequence, sacked other, mostly compretent, incumbents.

Last, Joyce offered up his political skills to demonise Labor, belittle Anthony Albanese and make hollow pledges to mine coal and build dirty power stations. He’s on that mission but it has a short shelf life.

One of its shortcomings is Joyce’s own incoherence. In a weekend interview with the Sunday News Corp tabloids, Joyce said people in the country didn’t “give a shit” about the impact of the virus in Melbourne and people in regional Australia could almost smell “burning flesh” from the southern metropolis.

On one level it’s just more political business as usual. More fundamentally, it is an outrage. Joyce has let his own selfish, indulgent, spiteful mission junk the national interest.

Morrison, who brags about his devotion to transactional relationships, is condemned by his conniving in all this. He might use Joyce’s junkyard dog political skills to help win the election but he’ll drag down all politicians in the process.

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