Joyce’s choices: What will happen now?
ONCE happy to give the perception of being brothers in arms, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his deputy Barnaby Joyce have launched two days of retaliatory and damaging attacks.
As a hurt Mr Joyce lobbed a political hand grenade at Mr Turnbull yesterday, calling out the Prime Minister's comments on the scandal that erupted over his affair with pregnant girlfriend and former staffer Vikki Campion as "inept and causing further harm", Opposition Leader Bill Shorten predicted the Turnbull Government would cannibalise itself and was unfit to govern. These are the possible scenarios:
THE speculation has intensified in recent days that Mr Joyce will not last amid calls that, at the very least, he should fall on his sword.
There is now speculation Mr Joyce is facing new bombshells as early as next week - allegedly facilitated by leaks from the Liberal Party.
The Liberals believe Mr Joyce is destroying the Government and handing The Lodge to Mr Shorten.
THE LIKELIHOOD: Extremely unlikely. Mr Turnbull cannot force Mr Joyce to resign because only the Nationals can elect the party's leader.
But more to the point, Mr Joyce does not believe he should resign based on a personal matter. While Labor has smeared the Deputy Prime Minister about entitlements and staffing arrangements, there is no smoking gun.
Mr Joyce is a fighter. He digs in when things get tough. That means he will almost certainly be Deputy Prime Minister at the next election and he and the PM will have to mend some political fences.
TURNBULL IS ROLLED
BILL Shorten and his team have desperately tried to link the Prime Minister to Mr Joyce's scandalous love life.
It's believed in some quarters that the tension between the Prime Minister and his deputy makes their relationship untenable. Because Mr Joyce is refusing to quit, the jump will be made that Mr Turnbull will face a challenge.
THE LIKELIHOOD: Not going to happen. Mr Turnbull's actions have been lauded by many within the Liberal Party as him looking strong and offering him a platform to talk about his values.
The Liberal Party is more united behind Mr Turnbull than it ever has been.
JOYCE SPLITS COALITION BUT OFFERS SUPPLY
BARNABY Joyce could barely believe the PM would rip into his personal life - and him personally - on Thursday.
The PM enjoys his position because of the National Party. The Liberals lost more than 10 seats at the election and the Nationals gained one.
Ask any National and they will say Mr Turnbull owes them. The Coalition agreement sets out the rules for the two parties, including numbers in Cabinet and policies.
If the agreement was ripped up, the Nationals would still offer the Liberals supply (support of the Government to ensure the country's bills can be paid), but the Nationals may not vote in a bloc on contentious legislation. It would present a very expensive experience for the Liberals.
THE LIKELIHOOD: Unlikely, but don't poke the bear. Mr Turnbull and Mr Joyce know they are stronger together and, after this spat, and within the next fortnight, they will likely stand up together at a press conference to show they are working as a team.
JOYCE SPLITS COALITION WITH NO SUPPLY OFFER
THIS is the nuclear option. See you at the polls.
Barnaby Joyce could walk away from the Liberal Party by tearing up the Coalition agreement, which sets the rules between the political marriage of convenience.
If Mr Joyce refuses to offer supply, it will send voters to an early election.
THE LIKELIHOOD: You never say never in politics but this scenario is as likely as Tony Abbott becoming prime minster again.
JOYCE RENOGOTIATES COALITION AGREEMENT
BARNABY Joyce yesterday returned fire on the Prime Minister, and many options are on the table.
The Nationals have been slightly emasculated under the Turnbull Government.
Mr Joyce has been so determined to keep Mr Turnbull in his job that he kept the troops at bay on the policy on a plebiscite on gay marriage - which turned into a postal survey.
There are many examples where the Nationals have put the Liberals first and have taken a hit. They no longer hold the portfolios of decentralisation or trade.
Mr Joyce now feels like he is in a position of power to regain some ground.
THE LIKELIHOOD: Possible. Mr Joyce is already in a fight with the PM and there's no better time to raise other issues he is irritated about when there's personal and public hurt. Mr Joyce has been sandbagged by his team and has fire in his belly.
KISS AND MAKE UP
IN A bizarre day in politics, the public tit-for-tat battle between the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister ended with Mr Turnbull in a slight retreat.
Some senior members on both sides are publicly and privately urging each other to sit down in a room and talk it out.
THE LIKELIHOOD: The most likely outcome. Mr Turnbull and Mr Joyce are practical and predictable. They know they cannot govern in a Mexican standoff.
The pair is contacting each other by text and there will likely be a private meeting when Mr Turnbull returns from Washington next week.
THE pair will stand firm - each believing they had to make the public comments.
THE LIKELIHOOD: They are both stubborn and hurt by the secrets and the aftermath, but this is a political marriage and commonsense will prevail.
The standoff won't last more than a week.
BUSINESS AS USUAL
THERE'S no business as usual after this. This will go down in the history books as one of the most scandalous spats between a Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minster. Their relationship will get back on track but it will not be like it was before.
THE LIKELIHOOD: It will soon look like business as usual but there will be political scars. It will be hard for Mr Turnbull to trust Mr Joyce again. It will also be hard for Mr Joyce to forgive Mr Turnbull for the public judgment.
JOYCE'S LEADERSHIP IS CHALLENGED
NATIONALS MPs are different to Liberal MPs. Their views and political radar are often at odds. But they will not be bullied and Mr Turnbull asking Mr Joyce to "consider his own position" was waving a red rag at a bull.
THE LIKELIHOOD: Extremely unlikely, unless there are further serious or scandalous reports about entitlements, duty or past behaviour. Mr Joyce is as big a brand name as the National Party itself.