BEETROOTED! Barnaby the beetrorter says 'This is rooted!' and beats it

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In this cartoon, you can see Turnbull mounting Barnaby (By @MDavidCartoons)

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has resigned, in a sad display of sulking self-pity after a week of scrutiny. As political editor Dr Martin Hirst reports, Beetrorter’s move to the back bench came after a week of less than quiet contemplation.

THEY SAY a week is a long time in politics and for Barnaby Joyce, this has been a very long week.

Joyce was given time to reflect and retreated to Armidale in northern New South Wales to get away from the media noise. For Barnaby, this was a chance to “Netflix and chill” with his heavily pregnant significant other.

Alas, life comes at you fast when you choose to live fast and loose.

The erstwhile Deputy Prime Minister was supposed to be on leave – it’s unclear if it was a holiday, or family leave or just sciving off from work – but he was actually busier than he normally is when supposedly in the office.

On Thursday last week, the PM told Parliament Mr Joyce would be taking leave and, in a statement, the Beetrooter said he wanted to spend time with his “family”, but he didn’t specify which one.

'Mr Joyce issued a statement saying he would be on leave next week and had advised the PM he wanted to support his family and partner after such intense public focus on personal matters.' (ABC)

However, within 24 hours, it was apparent that the Beetrorter was in a fight for his political life and that any thoughts of a relaxing few days with the “missus” were out the window.

Feb 17: Saturday night’s all right (for fighting)

Joyce’s first act on Saturday was to meet with the Prime Minister in Sydney in an attempt to settle their differences mano e mano. News of the meeting soon leaked, but it was pretty clear that no happy ending was involved. Neither party put out a media release and there was no posing for happy snaps.

Feb 18: Solemn Sunday

As a self-proclaimed “good Catholic” perhaps Barnaby might have considered a day of quiet contemplation and religious reflection on the sins of the father (who strays). Maybe he did? That’s a matter for Bananaby and his God.

We may never know for sure what prompted him to speak to Fairfax Media’s James Massola, but he obviously had a few things to get off his chest after the chat with Fizza the previous day.

'Mr Joyce spoke exclusively to Fairfax Media on Sunday after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull sought to quell the civil war inside the Coalition, sparked by the extramarital affair that was revealed nearly two weeks ago.'

Joyce was angrily reacting to another News Limited story about his travel expenses. He denied being a rorter and – apparently without irony – blamed the breakdown of his marriage on the number of nights his busy political life forced him to sleep away from home.

Understandable really. He was usually so tired and emotional after a busy day gladhanding constituents in Armidale that he couldn’t drive himself the 90 kilometres back to the family home in Tamworth.

So far, the holiday from work was going well, it seemed. But, hard-working and committed man he is, Mr Joyce felt compelled to set the record straight about his travel arrangements.

Ah, the joys of television. On Sunday evening we were “treated” to a gushing 60 Minutes segment in which Malcolm Turnbull grandiloquently ruminated on his perfect marriage.

I don’t know if Barnaby was watching, but what a way to rub salt into open sores!

Feb 19: Mad Monday

If Barnaby were serious about taking a break from the hectic pace of political life, he wouldn’t have seen the Newspoll published overnight which indicated that 65 per cent of voters thought he should resign. With Parliament not sitting, National MPs and Senators were canvassing their electorates. It is likely that many of them were getting the same message; Barnaby was on the nose everywhere.

Feb 20: Super Tuesday

Tuesday could have been a good day. The official Mrs Joyce, Natalie, was photographed enjoying a wine and a cruise on Sydney harbour and her “friends” were happy to tell the News Limited papers that she wanted her errant husband to keep his job as Nationals’ leader and therefore the Deputy Prime Ministership.

Social media speculated as to Natalie Joyce’s motive and, unkindly perhaps, it was suggested that the additional pay that comes with the deputy role would help with the family coffers if Barnaby were to offer an alimony-type payment.

Events later in the week tend to confirm that Mrs Joyce (official) should be worried about Bananaby’s ability to support her and the children, but we’ll come to that in due course.

It was another busy day of doing nothing much for Mr Joyce. It started with another front page exclusive in which the Deputy PM spoke once again to Fairfax reporter James Massola.

Yes, well, that was a smart move.

Barnaby was his usual beetrooter-red calm and placid self, declaring that the attacks on his character were not his fault and that they amounted to a “witch hunt”.

Joyce was described as “defiant” in the headlines and he certainly made a strong point in his on-the-record comments:

"I’ve been in heaps of fights in my political life, this is another one, in any person’s political career you aren’t created by the times in your favour, you’re tempered by the times of adversity. That’s how politics works - you rise to deal with it."

Joyce was also back in the international headlines on Tuesday after US comedian John Oliver roasted him for his expansive “family values”.

21 Feb: Weird Wednesday

The story was never going to go away and Barnaby was never going to leave the spotlight. A Channel 7 crew caught up with him for yet another “exclusive”.

He again refuses to take any responsibility for his wandering member, instead, this time blaming his serial infidelity on the late, lonely and cold nights he had to spend in Canberra away from the comfort of the marital home.

Poor, poor Bananaby.

22 Feb: Thursday at home with Barnaby

What the actual f*ck? Is this guy a media tart, or just getting bad advice from his media advisors? Yet another front page exclusive in Fairfax newspapers by James Massola. This time, we get to see Barnaby at home in his rent-free Armidale bachelor pad. Vicki is there in the background, doing her best to suggest that her real salary as a coalition staffer was only $135,000, not $191,000. However, as some social media sleuths point out, the lower figure is her after tax take-home pay and does not include all the allowances, or even the tax component and employer super contributions.

Nice try Vicki, but too little, too late.

The headline on what was, frankly, a puff-piece, was that Joyce and Campion had been “forced out” of their donor-supplied free accommodation because of the publicity. But they also whined about only spending 14 nights there since the beginning of the year.

Of course, this begs another question of the Beetrorter and his consort... Where did you spend the other 40-odd nights and, more importantly, who paid for them?

What might have been just a warm fuzzy day for Joyce became an inferno when a sexual harassment allegation against him was revealed. Joyce denied the charge, but it inevitably added fuel and oxygen to what was already a raging dumpster fire of a day.

23 Feb: End days for leader of Weatherboard Nine

It all came to a grinding, uncomfortable and largely inarticulate end for the Beetrooter just after 2pm today, Friday 23 February 2018, when he stood on a hill in Armidale and announced he was stepping down as Nationals’ leader and giving up the deputy prime ministership.

I had to check the transcript, because Joyce’ diction is pretty bad. I thought the Beetrorter said he was going to resign because of the “Weatherboard Nine” and I wondered who they were.

"Can I say right from the start, this is never about me," Joyce began, before making all about him and the Weatherboard Nine (of course).

He continued [IA emphasis]:

"I’m so humbled by, to have been, um, the deputy prime minister of Australia, someone who went to Woolbrook public school. But it’s only fair on those people on the weather board and iron, it’s only fair on that purpose of trying to make sure we continue that advancement of the person so that – if they are on the periphery of society, they can have the best opportunities – that there be some clear air.

Turns out the resignation was to support those living in weatherboard houses with corrugated tin roofs; though I’m buggered if I can see a link between Barnaby going to the backbench and a better life for the “Weatherboard Nine”.

Joyce said that the sexual harassment allegations published the day before had been the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and forced his hand. But it was also clear that, minute by minute, his Nationals colleagues were deserting him.

As the Guardian reported:

A second Nationals MP has moved to destabilise Barnaby Joyce by canvassing a challenge after the crisis around his leadership escalated with the report of a sexual harassment complaint against the Nationals leader.

On Friday Nationals MP Andrew Gee joined Andrew Broad in withdrawing support from Joyce, issuing a statement that “all bets are off” when it came to the leadership. 

Bananaby said the ongoing scrutiny of his life has “gotta stop” and that it had become unbearable for all concerned. Tellingly, he did not take any real personal responsibility, instead blaming the media for drawing attention to what he still maintains should have remained a private matter.

His awkward attempt at bush chivalry, referring to Vicki Campion as “a pregnant lady”, shows just how unreconstructed this misogynist dinosaur is.

Joyce made a great deal of noise about his humble beginnings and how great it is that an Australian from a rural public school could have the “privilege” of being deputy leader of the nation. Yes, Barnaby went to the Woolbrook Public School, but he was also a boarder at the exclusive Riverview College and a graduate of the University of New England.

Joyce mumbled something about being grateful for the support he’d received from the voters of New England and said that he’d had many friendly encounters on the streets of Armidale earlier in the day.

One line from his media conference that stuck out for me, although it probably didn’t come out of Joyce’s mouth the way it was intended, was the one spontaneously honest phrase in what was otherwise a self-serving and self-pitying admission of defeat:

I don’t deserve the support you’ve given me.

And with that epic and memorable line dripping misery and self-pity, the crimson galah of Australian politics forlornly slouched across the carpark to jump into a white Land Cruiser for the crushing drive back to the bachelor pad he’s sharing with his knocked-up girlfriend.

He might keep quiet this weekend and reflect on how he snatched defeat from the jaws of what should have been a defiant victory. Instead he will have time to drown his sorrows in alcohol and nicotine, as he contemplates a lonely existence as a backbencher with a mortgage, five kids and no future.

Not bad for a kid from Woolbrook.

You can follow political editor Dr Martin Hirst on Twitter @ethicalmartini.

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