Beetrooted advocates
 
The Beetrooter is finally on the backbench. My, what a sentence that is to write (even if it's a few days late). It's certainly been an affair to remember for Australian political tragics. One hopes we'll remember it, for Barnaby Joyce's very personal imbroglio has raised far more questions than it has provided answers.

Some of them are already being asked in Senate estimates hearings: namely, did Joyce's new partner Vikki Campion even have the job she was being handsomely paid to do in Nationals whip Damian Drum's office? And that's just one. Labor appears to have got the message of one catchcry loud and clear: it's not the rooting, it's the rorting that people are really angry about.

Regardless, now everyone from The Daily Telegraph to New Matilda has their man, what happens next? Labor, and some sections of the media, will continue to pursue Joyce and by extension Malcolm Turnbull over possible financial and procedural irregularities, particularly with regards to Campion's various appointments and their timing, and Joyce's travel claims.

Others - including The  Telegraph, which broke the story - will more likely give up the chase which, for them, was probably better than the catch. Not for the Tele the drudgery of estimates. For them, the next big scoop will be baby snaps. If Joyce feels aggrieved at the various intrusions into his private life already, he'd best have a plan for what's to come.

The really big question - the most existential, and the one with the most far-reaching implications for the Australian political order as we know it - lies over the National Party, which today anointed Michael McCormack as its new leader. As Katherine Murphy put it bluntly in The Guardian today, he's a man in a suit, little known outside his own electorate of Riverina. 

The National Party has been around for 90 years but right now they're vulnerable. At the last election they won less than 5 percent of the vote in the House of Representatives. They punch far above their weight because most of that vote lies in the regions and because of their opaque and extremely confidential coalition agreement with the Liberal Party.

It says something about the talent on offer within the National Party that McCormack, who is perhaps best known for an extraordinarily homophobic editorial written in 1993, is seen as the safest pair of hands available. Bridget McKenzie, the deputy, is a senator as well as being, obviously, a woman. That counts her out in the Nationals' Blokesworld. 

To be fair to McCormack, he has apologised for that editorial and has grown enough to have voted yes, in line with his electorate, for marriage equality. David Littleproud, one of his possible rivals, voted no (also, to extend equal fairness to him, in line with his electorate of Maranoa). And Darren Chester, a Victorian, is too socially progressive for the rest of his peers to tolerate.

The rest are even less recognisable than McCormack, until you go north of the Tweed River. The gaggle of Nationals from the Deep North, borrowing from author Andrew McGahan, borders on a sideshow of the ugly, the misshapen and the incoherent. He wrote that in the year 2000 - and was talking about the state party under Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

Frankly, looking at Matt Canavan, Barry O'Sullivan and George Christensen, you'd be forgiven for thinking not a lot has changed, even after the merging of the state Liberal and National parties in Queensland. And that's because it hasn't. Canavan is a Joyce ally, a senator, abrasive, and such a shill for the coal industry that he's already more lobbyist than politician.

O'Sullivan ... Look, don't go there. And Christensen? George, according to Murphy, actually put his hand up for the leadership after making lots of loud noises about the Nationals going it alone. George, of course, has made lots of loud noises about quitting the Coalition previously and joining One Nation, which from his point of view would be better than them beating him.

One Nation could hardly look more dysfunctional than they do right now and they bombed spectacularly at the Queensland election, but they still polled 13 percent of the statewide vote - more than 20 percent in half the seats they contested. Whether they can get their act together is another matter. The Katters aren't spent but they're never going to take the state by storm.

Then there's Cory Bernardi's Australian Conservatives. It remains to be seen how much he can poach of the Nationals' and One Nation's Bible-bashing constituency. The glaringly obvious point here is that the right's vote is splitting all over the shop, and that goes as much for the Nationals as it does for the splintering "broad church" of the Liberals.

For now, the Nationals may look like the safest bet simply because they've been around the longest and the Liberal Party need them to stay in office. But they've got no room to be complacent. Their former leader, the one they called a "once in a generation" politician, is finished and if he's smart will retire ahead of the next election. He's got too much on his mind.

The death of the National Party has been predicted so often without coming to pass that I'd be foolish to write its obituary here. They're the dag on the sheep's bum of Australian politics. But McCormack is barely known and doesn't have much time before the next poll to make his presence felt. And insurgents are coming from both inside and out.