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Barnaby Joyce’s failed coup

Feb 7, 2020 • 13m 35s

Barnaby Joyce lost his leadership tilt but has reopened a schism in the Coalition on climate policy.

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Barnaby Joyce’s failed coup

158 • Feb 7, 2020

Barnaby Joyce’s failed coup

PAUL:

Right, I'm now in the ready, set, go position. Can you hear me?

RUBY:

I can hear you.

From Schwartz Media, I’m Ruby Jones, this is 7am.

This week Barnaby Joyce tried and failed to make a comeback, but the brawl within the Nationals exposed long-simmering climate tensions in the Coalition.

Today: Paul Bongiorno on the challenges Barnaby Joyce has created for Scott Morrison.

Paul, let's start with the Nationals party leadership, which was triggered by the rolling sports scandal.

PAUL:

So the big story of this week started late Sunday afternoon when Bridget McKenzie finally resigned as a cabinet minister and deputy leader of the National Party.

She apparently realised, or as is more likely, the prime minister and her leader, the deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, convinced her for the sake of the whole show. She had to go.

Archival Tape -- Scott Morrison:

“What I’m telling the public is the minister has tendered her resignation”

Archival Tape -- Bridget Mckenzie:

“Yesterday, I resigned my ministry, and I informed the leader of the National Party I would be stepping down from my leadership roles”

PAUL:

You know, Michael McCormack, Ruby, warned Scott Morrison that Mackenzie's demise would most likely destabilise McCormack's own leadership and rocked the coalition. Bridget McKenzie had held on for as long as possible. Her most outspoken supporter to stay, he was none other than Barnaby Joyce. He even said he was taking bets on her survival.

But after 18 days of relentless leaks, clearly from within the government, showing how egregious her partisan rorting of the hundred million dollar grants scheme was, there was no real option. Well, this left the deputy leadership vacancy and the National Party room would have to fill it.

Ever the opportunist, Barnaby Joyce signalled that if there was a spill also of the leader's position, he would put his hand up to challenge McCormack

Archival Tape --Barnaby Joyce:

“If there’s a spill, Kochie, then I’ll put my hand up…”

PAUL:

Queensland National Llew O'Brien obliged and said he'd move a spill. Then, late Monday, Resources Minister Matt Canavan, another Queenslander, announced his willingness to resign from Cabinet and support Joyce. It really did look like a game plan.

Archival Tape -- Matt Canavan:

“The people we serve will be best served by Barnaby as leader, that’s the judgement I’ve come to. We need a bulldog, we need a fighter, to fight back against those who want to take away people’s coal jobs, who want to shut down cane farms, who want to stop even indigenous Australian’s developing their own land”

RUBY:

So what did Barnaby Joyce promise when he was making his case for the leadership of the Nationals?

PAUL:

Well, on cue, Barnaby Joyce then began a blitz of the media to push his credentials for a return to the top job. And what he promised was to renegotiate the coalition agreement to set out new conditions for letting liberals govern. So he wanted a more independent profile for the Nationals.

Archival Tape -- Barnaby Joyce:

“I think the national party has to be on the balls of its toes as we face some of the most challenging times. We have to speak with our own voice.”

PAUL:

And what he was proposing was, in fact, an anti environmental agenda completely out of sync with the mood of the nation in light of the record severity of the of the bushfires.

Barnaby promised more coal fired power stations, more land clearing and a rewrite of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to release more water to farmers and towns and less for natural habitats. This would have put him on a direct collision course with Morrison's attempt to at least appear to be a born again climate change activist.

RUBY:

What has the last year or so been like for Barnaby Joyce since he lost the leadership?

Archival Tape -- Barnaby Joyce:

“Now, you don’t have to convince me that the climate’s not changing, it is changing! My problem’s always been whether you believe a new tax is going to change it back…”

PAUL:

He used his time on the backbench to be a niggling voice

Archival Tape -- Barnaby Joyce:

“Look I just don’t want the government anymore in my life, I’m sick of the government being in my life…”

PAUL:

And he made sure that when he was on the backbench, he bought into arguments like he said, the only thing that could solve the climate change issue and crisis was God.

Archival Tape -- Barnaby Joyce:

“You know there’s a higher authority that is beyond our comprehension, right up there in the sky...unless we understand that it’s gotta be respected, then we’re just fools, we’re gonna get nailed.”

PAUL:

He was looking like, if you like, the leader of the opposition from within, which is the last thing the government really needs. In fact this is what appeals to people who think that he’s already a national figure, he’s got the name Barnaby, everybody knows who you’re talking about.

On the backbench, Barnaby Joyce never disappeared, and had the substantial support of key faceless men in the organisation of the Queensland Liberal and National Party. These people are convinced that the bland McCormack lacked the cut through to blunt the challenge of Pauline Hanson in the Sunshine State and the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party in New South Wales.

RUBY:

We’ll be back after this

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RUBY:

Paul, we're talking about the leadership spill in the Nationals. What were the final numbers?

PAUL:

Ruby, what were the final numbers we may never know these numbers because according to the National Party rules, the chief party whip, Damian Drum, must not divulge them. And in fact, must destroy the ballots. And by party tradition, he's supposed to take the numbers to his grave.

Joyce's allies then claim that the margin was 11 votes for McCormack and 10 votes for Joyce. Well, this is a sure sign that he'll have another crack, something Joyce confirmed on his local ABC in Tamworth.

Should the opportunity rise again, he'll sure have a go for it.

Archival Tape -- Presenter:

“But you wouldn’t rule out another tilt at the leadership in the future?”

Archival Tape -- Barnaby Joyce:

huff No one ever does...ring up someone who says they’ll rule out any sort of tilt…”

PAUL:

McCormick's backers say, look, it's not. It wasn't nearly as close as that. They claim it went 15:6, but both sides have to admit that this is what they say based on conversations before the vote. Because, well, nobody's seen the ballots except except the whip. So but whatever the numbers, as they say in the classics, McCormick's leadership is on death row.

RUBY:

So it was Barnaby Joyce ever a credible candidate?

PAUL:

Well, of course, he has supporters, as I say. But there were many people in and out of the parliament who were telling the Nationals not to elect him.

People like the founding member of Australian Women in Agriculture, Alana Johnson. She was backed up by other high profile rural women like Sue Middleton from the Foundation for Regional and Rural Renewal. Middleton said there were too many skeletons in the closet and the party should move forward.

These women point to the sexual harassment claim made against Joyce by a much respected rural leader from W.A., and that claim, of course, led to his earlier demise as leader.

RUBY:

So, Paul, this is obviously all very destabilising. What does it mean for the government?

PAUL:

Well, Ruby, the climate wars are back on. We must be at about Mark 3 by now, going back to Abbott versus Turnbull in opposition. Then, of course, we saw what happened to Malcolm Turnbull 18 months ago.

So while promising his colleagues he would loyally serve his boss. Barnaby Joyce warned them not to succumb on climate change to greenies. He says it wasn't an issue in Nationals electorates, and he criticised people for pushing hobby horses on the back of tragedies. So the key word there is he still sees climate change is basically a fairy tale, a hobbyhorse.

In the government party room on Tuesday, Joyce was joined by four of his supporters, including Queensland National, a George Christensen, who said five seats depended on the government's backing of coal, more mining and that support could be in jeopardy with more climate action now. Really, this was a threat. Remember, the government only has a one seat majority.

And anyway, it’s not only the Nationals stirring here, you also had liberals like Senator Jim Molan on Q and A saying he doubted manmade climate change.

Archival Tape -- Jim Molan:

"As to whether it is human induced climate change, my mind is open”

PAUL:

Not surprisingly, this alarmed a number of liberals in the party room. There was pushback. The new member for the inner Melbourne seat of Higgins, Katie Allen, said climate change needed to be tackled and backed Scott Morrison's preference for the use of new technologies to bring down emissions.

The member for North Sydney, Trent Zimmerman, a leading moderate, said more than technology was needed. And he said Joyce was wrong to assume climate change was not an issue just because it didn't register in certain seats. Another Liberal, Fiona Martin, said climate change had become a major issue in her seat in western Sydney.

RUBY:

Okay, so this is climate war mark 3. Do we know from the previous climate wars what might happen next?

PAUL:

Well, we know that if you stand up to the anti climate forces in the coalition parties, you lose your leadership, or at least that's what's happened to now. It's been certainly what's happened in the Liberal Party. There's no doubt McCormick and Morrison are aware of the lessons of the previous climate wars. The skeptics and fossil fuel champions are prepared to blow up the government rather than to allow policies that cut across the vested interests of coal and gas.

So what happens next? Well, it depends on how capable Morrison is to balance the interests within the party against the interests of being in government.

RUBY:

And does it seem like he can do that?

PAUL:

Well, I got to say, since the election, Morrison's political smarts have deserted him, much like Malcolm Turnbull. Now he lacks the authority to stare down the fossil fuel champions in the Coalition. That's assuming that he really wants to. But he is trying to reposition rhetorically to re market the product. But he is trying to reposition rhetorically to re market the product. But, you know, even here, it's a fraught project, especially with his old leadership rival Peter Dutton from Queensland in the Wings.

RUBY:

Paul Bongiorno, thanks so much for your time today.

PAUL:

Thanks, Ruby. Bye

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RUBY:

In other news - US President Donald Trump's impeachment trial has ended in an acquittal. The Senate voted to acquit 52 to 48 on the first article of impeachment. The vote split overwhelmingly on partisan lines, with only former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney crossing the floor to vote with the Democrats.

And… the Australian Federal Police will not proceed with an investigation into Energy Minister Angus Taylor.. over allegations his office used doctored documents to launch a political attack on Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore. The AFP found “no grounds” to proceed with an inquiry.

7am is hosted by me Ruby Jones. The show is produced by Ruby Schwartz, Atticus Bastow, Elle Marsh and Michelle Macklem. Brian Campeau mixes the show. Our editor is Osman Faruqi. Erik Jensen is our editor-in-chief. Our theme music is by Ned Beckley and Josh Hogan of Envelope Audio.

A special thanks this week to Ninah Kopel.

If you’re enjoying the podcast - we’d love it if you could subscribe, rate and review. It helps more people find out about us. See you next week!

Barnaby Joyce lost his leadership tilt but has reopened a schism in the Coalition on climate policy. Paul Bongiorno on what Joyce promised - and the challenges he has created for Scott Morrison.

Guest: Columnist for The Saturday Paper Paul Bongiorno.

Background reading:

Climate wars return amid Coalition chaos in The Saturday Paper
The Saturday Paper
The Monthly

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7am is hosted by Ruby Jones. The show is produced by Ruby Schwartz, Atticus Bastow, Elle Marsh and Michelle Macklem. Brian Campeau mixes the show. Our editor is Osman Faruqi. Erik Jensen is our editor-in-chief. Our theme music is by Ned Beckley and Josh Hogan of Envelope Audio.

This episode was produced in part by Elle Marsh, features and field producer, in a position supported by a grant from the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.

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auspol joyce nationals morrison climate sportsrorts spill




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158: Barnaby Joyce’s failed coup