War could destroy Government
THIS is war, and it's bigger than merely a clash between "appalling" Barnaby Joyce and "inept" Malcolm Turnbull. It might destroy the Government.
The eruption of accusations the Liberals are trying to intrude on the National Party internal process will encourage those Nationals who have threatened to cross the floor on issues to actually take that damaging walk.
The source of the clash is the Prime Minister's clear preference for Mr Joyce to step down, and he has picked a fight he most likely will not win.
Mr Turnbull's heavy-handed condemnation of his deputy on Thursday was never going to be meekly endured by Mr Joyce and hardline Nationals.
"The bonk ban is bonkers. And it shows the attacks on Barnaby are all about his private life," George Christensen, a National with a history of floor-crossing threats, tweeted.
As for Mr Joyce himself, a man who plays a friendly game of touch as if it were a grand final wasn't going to give a gentle assessment of Mr Turnbull's remarks.
Mr Joyce said today the Prime Minister's sex ban was "unnecessary and all that is going to do is basically pull the scab off to everybody to have a look at". And the Prime Minister was "inept".
Even more serious, he accused Mr Turnbull of "implied intervention into the party processes of the National Party".
That's intrusion on sacred political territory.
"We are an independent, vertical unit and make our own decisions, especially about those who are the office holders," Mr Joyce told reporters.
And he said pointedly: "I will not be making comments about the leadership of the Liberal Party and would not expect comments about the leadership of the National Party."
The uproar over Mr Joyce's private life has detonated longstanding tensions between the parties, and confirmed to some Liberals that the Nationals are the passengers in the Coalition partnership.
Liberals privately have been mocking the Nationals leader and allegations of office hopping to accommodate his pregnant partner.
One Liberal produced a "positions vacant" meme with a picture from the Indian sex guide the Kama Sutra.
The mockery has served through and Malcolm Turnbull has made certain his contempt for matters Joyce has been readily discernible.
And Barnaby Joyce has in turn made clear he I'll not be pushed around, no matter how exhausted an asset the Liberals might consider him.