Despite the continued media onslaught against Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce over his conduct relating to his affair with former media advisor Vikki Campion it looks like he is not going anywhere. Not only because Joyce has made it clear he will not be stepping down but because their is no clear alternative.
Veterans Affairs Minister Michael McCormick was widely viewed as not having done his own leadership aspirations any good with his interview on Sky News on Monday where he refused to rule out a leadership challenge and failed to pledge his support for Joyce. Former Cabinet Minister Darren Chester is widely viewed as being too socially progressive to be a Nationals leader and is from Victoria where Nationals representation is very small.
After their blow up last week Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce agreed on the weekend to put it behind them and work together going forward. The Liberals do realize they are powerless to do anything about Joyce and pressuring him to resign would cause a rift in the Coalition.
But one party loosely affiliated with Coalition has decided to get involved in the Joyce affair. That is the Western Australian National Party with their state leader Mia Davies publicly releasing a statement that Joyce had lost the support of their branch and called on him to resign “Mr Joyce’s actions have caused pain for his family, but it is the ongoing damage Mr Joyce is causing The Nationals organisation that is of greatest concern to me as WA Leader”.
The mainstream media of course was eager to report this was a mortal blow to Joyce but it must be noted that the WA Nationals have little relevance to the federal National Party at all apart from their name. Yes they are affiliated with the federal National Party but they have their own independent structure and are not part of the formal Coalition arrangement the Nationals have with the Liberal Party. They are also a socially progressive party as they supported same sex marriage and the Safe Schools program with most WA conservatives joining the Liberal Party.
They did support the Barnett Liberal Government from 2008 to 2017 but a new Coalition agreement had to be negotiated after each election. When they did have a Federal MP Tony Crook elected in 2010 he sat on the crossbench in the House of Representatives and hardly ever sat in on National partyroom meetings. Crook lasted one term (he was elected on Labor preferences) before retiring as traveling to Canberra he found too burdensome, they haven’t had federal representation since.
Barnaby Joyce in his response to Mia Davies highlighted both the fact they have no representation and they are virtually a separate party saying “I acknowledge your concerns however it should also be said that you don’t have a federal member of parliament in the National Party of Australia” and “I also note, you are not in a Coalition in Western Australia and the WA Nats pride themselves on their ferocious independence”.
The Federal President of the National Party Larry Anthony was also not impressed “The WA Nationals have always been fiercely independent – that’s their prerogative – but ultimately the decision on the leadership of the federal party rests with elected officials” stating about their intervention “I don’t think it was very helpful.”
Nobody outside of Western Australia would have known who Mia Davies was or even if National Party existed in that state, it is clear then that her statement on the Joyce affair was nothing but an act of virtue signalling and a cry for national media attention. If the WA National Party has zero federal votes then Mia Davies’ opinion on the matter counts for zero. She probably has less influence on the matter than even the federal Liberal Party.
If the Western Australia Nationals are united in their condemnation of Joyce and given that they have almost no relationship with the East Coast branches of the party why don’t they form a separate party and be completely independent? But of course they want to still gain the votes off the federal National Party brand.
The federal National partyroom needs to make a decision about Joyce’s future when parliament resumes next week, but this should be entirely their decision and outside forces in the Liberal Party and WA Nats which have their own political problems should not have any relevance.