There was a seismic shift in Australian politics on Monday, with the Barn-storming return of Barnaby Joyce.
Liberal senator Hollie Hughes on Wednesday downplayed the second-time Nationals leader usurping Michael McCormack.
"Barnaby injects a little more drama, if you could say," she told the ABC.
Drama? Oh yes. After a three-year patience game, the vociferous, ruddy, and - importantly - well-known politician's quest to return to the nation's second-highest political office finally bore fruit.
Less drama, more trauma, apparently, for deputy Nationals leader David Littleproud.
"Obviously, they are traumatic events," he said on radio 2CC.
"And it's just important now to unite behind Barnaby and get on with the job."
We're told that McCormack was not pushing back enough against the Prime Minister and the Liberals, particularly on climate change and the push to net-zero emissions by 2050. So Joyce seized the moment. He wanted his old job back, the next federal election is reasonably nigh, and the Nationals collectively decided to go for grunt over rustic polish.
The sudden coup, and the ensuing discord over issues like water, has many looking on in bewilderment and concern, not least from within government.
On water policy, there was the spectacle this week of the Nationals throwing their weight around, trying - but ultimately failing - to amend government legislation in the Senate and the House.
Joyce is expected to stand up more for the Nationals. It will be Scott Morrison's job to keep him in the tent.
Liberal MPs who The Canberra Times spoke to this week shook their heads and rolled their eyes at what is going on. It is an opportunity for Labor to prise open the cracks - but at the same time we are being advised not to underestimate the Barnaby factor, or the man himself.
It is expected he will shore up the Coalition's electoral chances in central Queensland.
It's no accident he mentioned this at his post-spill press conference. It was the central argument to flip. Queensland is all important to securing government, and Mr Joyce is close to retiring Queensland colleagues Ken O'Dowd and George Christensen. He is a more aggressive campaigner, and he'll help new unknown candidates get in the saddle.
He should also assist pushing back the likes of One Nation in northern NSW. And, according to senior government sources, the seat of Hunter - currently held by Labor's Joel Fitzgibbon, and by the party since 1910 - may be in play. Coal mining and farming dominate the seat, and the Nationals regard Fitzgibbon as rattled by Mr Joyce's return.
The very large chink in Mr Joyce's armour is his standing with women, even in his own party. This is at a time when the Morrison government remains challenged by the Brittany Higgins sexual assault allegations, and other accounts of unacceptable treatment of women in politics and beyond.
Mr Joyce has the amazing cut-through with the public that other politicians envy, but he is tainted by the reasons he stepped down three years ago.
He resigned as Nationals leader after an accusation of sexual harassment by rural advocate Catherine Marriott. He strenuously denies the allegation. A subsequent review by the Nationals was inconclusive.
There was also an affair with a former staffer, with whom he now has two children.
Nationals MPs Michelle Landry and Anne Webster have aired concerns that his history is unpalatable with female voters.
"There were women out there who made accusations," Ms Landry told news.com.au. "None of that was ever proven, but I do know there's women who would not be happy."
The concern has been consistent; it's come from the Nationals' leader in Western Australia, their deputy leader in Victoria, a NSW trustee of the Nationals, a former chair of the Nationals Women's Council, and one of the founders of Women in Agriculture. All women. All representing the regions.
"Not listening, haven't learned," is the common message for the party.
"You would wonder why the Nationals would put somebody there who is so behind the eight ball because of the skeletons in the cupboard," Alana Johnson told the ABC.
Government sources expect the "tightest election ever", and even if he shores up central Queensland and northern NSW, the Barnaby factor could cause problems for the government in inner-city seats such as Higgins, held Dr Katie Allen, Chisholm, held by Gladys Liu, North Sydney, held by Trent Zimmerman and Mackellar, held by Jason Falinski.
And with his ascendancy, Joyce is now set to advise on women, as he will replace McCormack on the Cabinet Taskforce on the Status of Women.
"Kind of blows my mind, to be honest," Labor's spokesperson on women, Tanya Plibersek, told The Canberra Times.
"Michael McCormack is a decent, courteous man. I think you know that this whole exercise has been a blow against decency in public life.
"This is in their own voices, for their own reasons, National Party women are saying this.
"Frankly, I'm amazed at a time like this, [when] we've had so much focus in recent months on the culture in Parliament and the culture in our nation, that the Nationals didn't listen for the women in their own party and the women they purport to represent."
The Canberra Times sought an interview or comments from the Deputy Prime Minister for this article, but received no response.
Joyce insists he is a changed man.
"I acknowledge that in a whole range of areas there are people who may dislike me and there are people who like me. That's part of politics," he told Parliament on Wednesday.
"I'm sure there are blokes who dislike me as well. And that is part of life.
"On reflection, as we go through life, we always try to learn from our mistakes and become a better person."
Asked again a day later about the concerns of regional women, he had the same riff.
"Every person in their life always tries to be a better person, and I am no different," he declared.
Is this the mid-pandemic drama the Morrison government needs right now? And where will it lead, with politics-watchers eyeing a likely March federal election?
The Prime Minister is in home quarantine at The Lodge, and the Deputy Prime Minister has been at the despatch box, dodging questions about regional women objecting to him holding high office.
Emboldened by Joyce's return, there was a "robust debate" in the government party room over the government's childcare policy.
Yes, not the Labor policy. The government's own $1.7 billion policy.
Nationals senator Matt Canavan stood up and asked for extra support for parents to care for their children at home, while Queensland MP George Christensen suggested working women were "outsourcing parenting". Some female MPs, to put it mildly, took issue with this. Senator Hollie Hughes among them.
She says she does not remember saying the phrase "mansplaining" in the party room, but did not deny it when asked later to confirm reports that she said or at least implied it.
The Coalition certainly makes for strange bedfellows.
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