Only someone with a heart of stone would not be feeling for political tragic tonight, with the news of Barnaby Joyce's demotion from Shadow Finance to Shadow Regional Development, Infrastructure and Water – code I guess for “ go roam around the countryside chatting to farmers”.
I earnestly wanted Joyce to last till the election – I knew it couldn’t happen: someone that incompetent cannot be around the centre of things during an election campaign. I hoped at least he would survive till the budget. Alas. The small consolation is that he will still represent the Shadow Finance Minister in the Senate, which means come Budget Estimates time he will be there trying to outwit Treasury Secretary Ken Henry, so the entertainment and cringe level will still remain.
Joyce has been replaced by Andrew Robb – he who emerged from self-imposed sick leave due to depression last year to help kill Turnbull’s leadership. Robb is boring, and apparently intelligent. He didn’t hold any positions of great prominence in the Howard Government (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, and then Minister for Vocational and Technical Education), and his main claim to fame is as Federal Director of the Liberal Party 1990-97 – which meant he played a big role in both the 1993 loss, and the 1996 win.
His most important role during the 2007 election campaign was to claim the 13 ALP candidates were ineligible to stand because they failed to resign from their Commonwealth jobs prior to nominating for the seat. It turned out he had based this claim on the evidence of various websites which still had the 13 listed as staff of the various Government agencies. Unfortunately for Robb, that was just because the websites hadn’t been updated. His use of the internet as proof led Possum on Crikey to dub him “the Google Assassin”.
Perhaps that was just a slip up on his part, but he will need to be a lot better to best Tanner.
The first question he will need to answer is whether he stands by the comments Barnaby Joyce made on Australia's sovereign debt risk. After that I am sure there will be a few more things said by Joyce that he will have to counter. And don’t think the Joyce is gone. The ALP will use him for as much ammunition as they can – he is still a member of the Shadow Cabinet, and he is still evidence of Abbott acting first, thinking later, so anything he says will still be used against Abbott. Joyce is the gift that keeps on giving (I predict he’ll actually become more outspoken on foreign investment now), he just won’t give as much now. But thanks anyway Barnaby; you helped the ALP kill any momentum Abbott had more times than anyone else.
Tanner now has seen off the following:
- Peter Dutton (from 6.12.07 to 22.9.08)
- Joe Hockey (from 22.9.08 to 16.2.09)
- Helen Coonan (from 16.2.09 to 8.12.09)
- Barnaby Joyce (from 8.12.09 to 25.3.10)
Now, you have to say Tanner has had it easy – Dutton is an empty suit; Hockey keeps getting the basics of economics wrong; Coonan is intelligent, but didn’t get much of a look in – and you really need the shadow to be in the House of Reps; and Joyce is an economic fool.
For now he and the ALP will have to deal with Robb. Robb at least has a Bachelor of Economics, so he should not at least make basic errors like did Barnaby. He is also boring, so he is unlikely to over-shadow Hockey – which is no bad thing for the ALP, given Hockey’s lack of economic sense.
When Julie Bishop resigned as Shadow Treasury Spokesperson, I wrote: So long Julie, thanks for the laughs. I must say Joyce didn’t make me laugh all that much as Shadow Finance Minister – he made me cringe. It might not be good for the ALP that Joyce is gone from the Finance spot, but it sure is good for the country.
Oh and David Speers of Sky News, probably wishes he could take back this tweet from 4pm:
Prediction: Barnaby stays in Finance, Malcolm stays on b'bench. Abetz Senate leader, Brandis deputy. Full details on #PMAgenda at 4:15.
Ah well, three out of four ain’t bad!