Fewer than three and a half years after resigning as Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce has returned to the second-highest political office within the Federal Government.
My Joyce ascended to the Nationals leadership for the second time following a party room spill held on Monday morning. He replaces Michael McCormack, who is likely to head to the backbench as part of the impending reshuffle.
What does it mean for the government?
Barnaby Joyce is unquestionably one of the most high profile politicians in Australia. Which means that the Prime Minister will now have a Deputy likely to consume more media attention than his predecessor.
Moreover, under My Joyce’s watch the Nationals are likely to be less compliant with their Coalition governing partners. Broadly speaking, the new leadership will look to steer both the Nationals and the Government to the Right across certain policy areas. Issues such as climate change, energy and mining can often be bones of contention between the two parties and a Joyce-led Nationals is likely to lobby extensively during internal negotiations with their Liberal colleagues on these matters.
Under Mr Joyce’s watch there is also likely to be a strong pursuit of further funding for regional communities. This includes greater investment in infrastructure, drought resilience and manufacturing projects aimed at shoring up key rural seats for the Coalition at the next election.
At the time of writing, the only change thus far has been a straight swap between the outgoing and incoming leader, with Mr Joyce sworn is as both Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure. As with all leadership changes, the new leader will look to reward their key backers while at the same time attempt to construct the most effective front-bench possible.
Thursday or Friday will reveal all, however, any portfolio changes are likely to be confined to those held by the Nationals and the Prime Minister is not expected to use this moment to conduct a more extensive reshuffling of the ministerial deck chairs.
Will it help or hinder the Government?
Barnaby Joyce is a polarising figure. To some, he’s an unwavering champion of the bush whose idiosyncratic style cuts through with the general public, including those outside rural areas. But to others he’s a brash and controversial politician.
From an electoral perspective, a priority for Mr Joyce will be to solidify the regional vote behind the Nationals/LNP. At both a state and federal level, the Party is susceptible to leaking votes (and losing seats) to smaller parties such as One Nation, the Katter Party and the Shooters and Fishers Party. Not only is galvanising the rural vote important to holding onto a number or lower-house country seats, but it could prove critical in determining outcomes in the senate.
Whether Barnaby 2.0 proves to be a success or otherwise, you can be certain it won’t be dull.