It was at a Nationals soirée in Canberra last night that Barnaby Joyce managed to shock even me, someone who has known him more than 30 years and has seen behind the curtain. Not the curtain the public saw behind when his propriety was lanced like a boil or Alan Jones' head, but the other curtain - the one shrouding his darkest secrets, desires and impulses.
Dear reader, bear witness to Barnaby Thomas Gerard Joyce at his most raw.
I was surprised to have received the party invitation and was reluctant to attend. "You won't be disappointed," said the person who invited me. "And given your writing style, I can't think of anyone better suited to documenting what happens there."
The event was held at a spectacular concrete mansion - a contemporary, two-storey cube design with glass walls. About an hour had passed when Barnaby made his grand entrance, gasps coalescing with laughs to slap my face and snap me out of a boozy stupor. He was dressed in tight ripped jeans, grey suede boots, a grey slouch beanie, and a black leather jacket over a white T-shirt embossed with the face of a cat wearing black glasses and a black bow tie.
The member for New England stood before a now mute, slack-jawed crowd of some 40 people, in an expansive marble-tiled living room opening on to lush grounds with a pool. He said he'd had an epiphany and realised his political ideology was wrong.
He planned to quit the Nationals and start a party founded on environmentalism, veganism and animal rights, LGBTQI rights, the #MeToo movement and atheism. He now wished to be called Matteo.
"You greenie hipster!" a man screamed, then cue the pandemonium. People buffeted Barnaby like outback flies. Yet his lips - glowing with balm - remained pursed, a wry smile forming when Matt Canavan gyrated like Peter Garrett before being knocked over when Llew O'Brien raced towards Barnaby. O'Brien's gums flapped and his face became a mangled beetroot mess, but not an intelligible word was heard. An old short bloke, who looked like Martin Scorsese, only with a gargantuan head, bent over in front of Barnaby and said, "Gawn ... you know ya wanna, greenie," as a smirking George Christensen filmed the unseemly act on his phone, and David Littleproud genuflected.
I've seen some mind-melting things in my life, and what I was witnessing at the party was right up there on the bizarro scale. What's more, I had a feeling the best was yet to come. In a downstairs toilet, I suffered unexpected, and somewhat disconcerting, stage fright while taking a leak beneath a large framed photo of Sir Joh - the result of a Queensland childhood under his rule, I reasoned.
Upon returning to the party, the music died and Barnaby stepped on to a coffee table. His eyes swept across the rowdy and rattled. "I'll answer all your questions," he said, "if you ask them in a respectful manner."
Michael McCormack guffawed loudly and dramatically waved off the remark. "Pffft. What would you know about respect?"
Barnaby said: "In light of the continued lack of leadership in this great party, I'll just say what's on my mind."
"Get stuffed, Barnaby," McCormack said, folding his arms and pouting.
"Go ahead," Darren Chester said. "It's not like we could stop you anyway. Hell, I doubt that even the Donald could." Laughter reverberated, and Chester savoured the reaction.
"This is a sick f**kin' joke, right?" Michelle Landry said.
I've seen the error of my ways. And I want the party I create to be a reflection of the new me.
"It's no joke, friends," Barnaby said. "I've seen the error of my ways. And I want the party I create to be a reflection of the new me."
"We can't let him do it," said big-head Scorsese. "If our most high-profile MP is revealed to be a degenerate animal, and starts a political party to rival ours, we may as well fold up the tent and go home, for all the credibility we'll have left." "Stan's right," Littleproud said. "This buffoon has embarrassed us enough. We can't let him destroy us. We just can't!"
"Ah, what's with the tears, Davie?"
"Shut up, Christensen."
"It's bulls**t," McCormack said. "He has no intention of going through with this. He's trying to force your hand in order to have me dumped so he can become leader again. Look: the conniving bastard is bloody smirkin'!"
"Mr Charisma is right - sort of," Barnaby said. "I am trying to force your hand. I do want to be leader. But believe me when I say this: I am prepared to go through with my threat. I'll burn the house down if I have to." He straightened defiantly. "What happens now is entirely up to you guys." Cue the pandemonium. And as Barnaby absorbed his fever-dream creation, he turned to me and winked.
Mark Bode is an ACM journalist. He uses satire and fiction in his writings.