How can Barn­aby Joyce come back?

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - THE ROUND-UP READERS’ PIC - Natalie Kot­sios

THE tim­ing was in­cred­i­ble re­ally: as the who’s who of Aus­tralian agri­cul­ture de­scended on Canberra last week, cel­e­brat­ing its ru­ral women, talk­ing di­ver­sity, plan­ning for a $100 bil­lion fu­ture – there were the Na­tion­als, still stuck in the past.

Whis­pers of a pos­si­ble Nats lead­er­ship chal­lenge swirled, and the farm sec­tor was left scratch­ing their col­lec­tive heads – how, just eight months af­ter Barn­aby Joyce re­signed in dis­grace, and just eight weeks af­ter the Lib­er­als’ own botched lead­er­ship spill, could a Joyce come­back even be a thought bub­ble?

Mr Joyce de­nied can­vass­ing sup­port, but made no se­cret of his am­bi­tions: he’d re­turn to the lead­er­ship in a heart­beat if he were drafted.

But he and his sup­port­ers should check the tem­per­a­ture out­side their back­yards, be­cause there’s plenty of those the Nats claim as their base who do not miss him in the least.

“He seems to have for­got­ten the team handbook,” one farm leader ob­served dryly at the Na­tional Farmers’ Fed­er­a­tion Congress last week.

“He’s do­ing what (Tony) Abbott and (Kevin) Rudd did,” said an­other.

“Peo­ple have lost their minds if they’re think­ing of sup­port­ing him,” a third de­clared. “Se­ri­ously, tell me it’s not hap­pen­ing.”

Mer­ci­fully, for now at least, it ap­pears there’s no ap­petite to force a spill, even among Mr Joyce’s sup­port­ers.

Aside from the fact an­other change would be the fourth Nats leader in three years why should Mr Joyce be re­turned?

What kind of legacy did he leave that peo­ple are ap­par­ently so ea­ger to have him back? Those who dealt with him as agri­cul­ture min­is­ter say he was in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult to work with, in turn de­scrib­ing him as er­ratic, un­pro­fes­sional, re­fus­ing to take ad­vice from any­one.

As party leader, MPs have said he was di­vi­sive.

Add to that his per­sonal in­dis­cre­tions and al­le­ga­tions he sex­u­ally ha­rassed one of Aus­tralia’s most re­spected ru­ral women, and it’s no won­der ques­tions arise on his judg­ment or char­ac­ter.

The leader Michael McCor­mack has been lack­lus­tre.

His worst of­fence seems to be he’s yet to make a mark.

But to com­pare that to Mr Joyce’s legacy, is it re­ally rea­son enough for the Nats to look back­wards?

■ Natalie Kot­sios is The

Weekly Times na­tional af­fairs

re­porter.

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