Don't poke the bear that is George Christensen
Yesterday, a video of MP Geroge Christensen speaking in parliament went viral, where the extreme-right MP asked "when will the madness end?" referring to lockdowns, mask mandates, and vaccines. He went on to spout many COVID myths that have been disproven by experts (something he is not). The speech was so absurd that even the Prime Minister, renowned for doing shit all in these situations, condemned his words. Now that's when you know it's some extreme right-wing bs.
But as even the most shocking of parliamentary news does, that story fizzled out today and was replaced with Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce's comments on the matter. Joyce, who's predominately known to Cheek for refusal to act on the climate crisis and an unresolved sexual harassment claim, spoke on Christensen's outburst to multiple news outlets today, seemingly scared to disagree with the MP.
When questioned by ABC News Breakfast, Joyce said "you can't [order] another member of parliament, it doesn't work like that... I disagree with some of George's [views], but I'm not going to start ordering people around." Some (I) might argue that it's less ordering people around and more displaying leadership and having standards in your party, but I digress...
Shockingly, and disturbingly, Christensen currently holds a safe seat, which he won by a landslide in the last election. But he has already announced he's retiring from politics and won't recontest the next election. And that's exactly where the issue lies.
“I know how George’s mind works. If you start prodding the bear, you’re going to make the situation worse for us as a government, not better,” said Joyce. “I’ll say that to my colleagues, I can assure you that when you’ve got a thin margin, don’t start giving reasons for a by-election.”
Barnaby knows that criticising Christensen's actions could cause the MP to quit early, and will almost definitely cause a rift between Christensen and the National party, resulting in a less than smooth exit. This runs the risk of losing the seat to another party, which would mean fewer Nationals in the Coalition, therefore less voting power to do things like stamp out what little the Libs do for the climate, or it could even contribute to a loss of power for the Coalition government, who only hold a one-seat majority.
With politics so marginal on a federal level, every seat counts. Australians, at a federal level, are swing voters, so we often see the winning party (or Coalition) in power by the skin of their teeth. This also makes it harder for them to pass legislation, having to count on minor parties and independent MPs for support.
Basically, George Christensen is the ~senstitive~ youngest child, and Barnaby is the parent scolding his siblings to "leave him alone!"
Right-wing politicians often opt for the hands-off approach when it comes to issues like this one, which is largely because conservatives don't believe it's the place of the government to be ultra hands-on. An approach known as 'laissez-faire'. Right-wingers are also often the group in support of 'free speech'. But this time, Banaby Joyce has taken it a bit further to protect his own party, opting to protect his own interests, particularly as the newly re-elected leader, instead of public health and safety.