Opinion: Barnaby Joyce is on leave - but is still on front pages

Still standing: Barnaby Joyce.

Still standing: Barnaby Joyce.

It seemed pretty clear at the end of last week: our local member for the federal parliament announced that he was taking leave. A period of silence would ensue.

But silence and Mr Joyce are not normally associated with each other. And, sure enough, he’s been on the front pages ever since, asserting that he’ll be back and opining, according to others, on abortion.

Questions fall like the rain we’re not getting. He gave his blockbuster interview, taking swipes here and there – but some wondered where this fitted in with the desire to keep private lives private.

As for the leave, it wasn’t initially clear for how long it would be – and in the absence of clarity, rumour and gossip fill the vacuum. Would he be off until after the parliamentary winter break – and so back in August? Or would it be sooner? Or would it be never?

Mr Joyce then broke his leave to clarify with the clearest of statements and a Tweet: “Contrary to reports, I’m taking leave until June 15 following a routine check up. The medical certificate provided allowed for a month.”

Which raised further questions. Medical certificate?

So what do we know at the end of a tumultuous week?

We know that Barnaby Joyce is a fighter – but we knew that already. He’s a bruiser. That’s what made him so attractive. But might that pugnacity now work against him? Might it seem like a lack of humility when a little humility might be much more appropriate in the wake of the damaged lives of a shattered family?

And we know that he has lost that Teflon sheen where blunders seemed like strengths. Now, the mis-steps appear to have wounded his reputation, particularly among women the Examiner has talked to.

There is a view, for example, that he should not have invited a press photographer into his new home – how would his jilted wife feel about that, is the oft expressed sentiment? Being big and macho no longer seems to play so well. 

And we know that the vultures are wheeling round. Mr Joyce seems like a wounded beast, staggering under the blows. Wounded beasts survive – but predators smell blood.

----- Steve Evans-----