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Barnaby’s mistake but Nationals’ endgame

By Scott Prasser - posted Wednesday, 9 February 2022

Revelations of Barnaby Joyce’s critical indiscrete text messages about Prime Minister Morrison last year while showing his lack of judgement, discipline and loyalty, also highlights the National Party’s ineptness in restoring him as leader.

Joyce should resign regardless of whether the Prime Minister has accepted his apology, or if not his party should take the initiative and remove him as their leader.

As it stands Joyce through his indiscretions and unpredictability has become an embarrassment and a liability to the government.


Moreover, since restored as leader, he has achieved little in terms of the promised policy breakthroughs to differentiate the Nationals from their senior partner.

Liberals must surely be asking whether the Nationals can be trusted for anything?

After all, the Nationals have a long record of undermining their coalition partner, of interfering in their choice of leaders, and in threatening to sabotage the government if they did not get their way.

It was the Nationals who demanded a prime minister be replaced for the price of joining the first federal coalition government in 1923.

It was their leader Dr Earle Page, who publicly attacked Robert Menzies to thwart his rise to the prime ministership and who then led his party out of government.

It has been the Nationals which has threatened the coalition if they did not get their way on a range of policy issues and favourable electoral distributions systems.


It was the Nationals who after 23 years in coalition government deserted the Liberals when the Labor came to power in 1972, by refusing to form a coalition in opposition. The Nationals even went looking for another partner only coming back to the Liberals when that failed and with Labor threatening a fairer electoral redistribution.

It was the Nationals who in 1987 caused the federal coalition to end in their disastrous ‘Joh for PM’ campaign that undermined John Howard’s election chances and contributed to further instability.

Although the Nationals currently have a good total representation in federal parliament this only camouflages that they are a greatly diminished party in the number of House of Reps seats they hold and votes they attract - it is less than half to what they once received.

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A version of this article was first published by the Canberra Times.

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About the Author

Dr Scott Prasser has worked on senior policy and research roles in federal and state governments. His recent publications include:Royal Commissions and Public Inquiries in Australia (2021); The Whitlam Era with David Clune (2022) and the edited New directions in royal commission and public inquiries: Do we need them?. His forthcoming publication is The Art of Opposition reviewing oppositions across Australia and internationally. .

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