Barnaby’s second coming

A short recap

In February 2018 Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was scheduled to go to the U.S., and he flagged that Mr Joyce would be acting Prime Minister in his absence. Unfortunately Mr Joyce was at that time embroiled in two personal crises, the first of which was the very public end of his marriage, caused by his affair with a staff member.

Of course these things do happen, but it is usually put down to a momentary loss of judgement, or at worst an existential panic about getting older. Mr Joyce behaved appallingly throughout, with not one single grace note to relieve the awfulness.

Firstly he humiliated his wife, and presumably his four daughters. No hiding away, to protect his family, from the public, or the press. No attempt to mend the fences he had demolished. Instead he explained that Canberra is a lonely place in the midst of winter. Cold comfort for his existing family, and presumably cold comfort for his new partner. No declarations of irresistible emotion, he even questioned the timing of the pregnancy, idly wondering if he was indeed the baby’s father.

Next came that television interview, for which he was paid $150,000. There was talk that it was against the rules for Parliamentarians to accept remuneration for appearing in the media, but that appeared to be overlooked, in all the mayhem.

Joyce and Ms Campion announced that lawyers were to establish a trust fund for their son, Sebastian, to set aside the $150,000 to pay for future expenses, like school fees. So the fruits of a questionable interview, with a questionable payment, were to be tax free, as well. Not only did he out himself as an unabashed adulterer, and a shameless opportunist, but he was free-loading on the tax system as well. Mr Hockey’s lifters and leaners, indeed.

His other problem was that he had been formally complained about, as a sexual harasser. The woman in question made the complaint anonymously, but the National Party leaked her name, and then in an act of stunning hypocrisy, decided that they could not uphold the allegation, for ‘lack of evidence’. Catherine Marriott travelled to Sydney twice, at her own expense, to lodge the complaint and to provide evidence.

In recent days a West Australian Labor Party MP has described how she was warned about keeping clear of Barnaby Joyce seven years ago “because he had a history of groping women”. Is there any wonder that women who have to deal with him have strong reservations? The complaint from Catherine Marriott remains unresolved.

Obviously in 2018 there was an uncomfortable confluence of events, and within a week Mr Joyce had resigned from the leadership of the National Party, and consequently lost his position as Deputy Prime Minister. He claimed that he left to ‘clear the air’.

Mr Joyce has a history of failure in Government. In 2018 Mr Joyce was found to be a dual New Zealand and Australian citizen. Under S44 of the Australian Constitution, he was obliged to resign from Parliament, and to re-contest his seat. He won the by-election, against low profile candidates, but nevertheless he improved his margin.

It would be reasonable to expect that Mr Joyce might have had the nous to check his eligibility. But no, he had several more struggles to contend with. At around this time he was found to be living, at no expense, in a friend’s apartment in Armidale. He declared the ‘gift’ of free rental, but again he was pilloried by the Press. He responded that he needed the assistance, because he was living on a reduced wage, of over $211,000 per annum. Admittedly he was supporting six children, and two households, but to most Australians he was earning a satisfactory type of wage.

Weighing it all up

He has been called the world’s worst ever Agricultural Minister. Amongst other debacles he ‘oversaw’ the Watergate purchase, of an entitlement to occasional floodwaters, for double the asking price. The seller was a company formerly connected to a cabinet colleague; it is now run by a Liberal Party donor. Mr Joyce denied any responsibility, notwithstanding the inconvenient truth, that he was the responsible Minister.

He has been condemned for moving the pesticides regulator from Canberra to his own electorate, at huge expense, and with no discernable upside. He has apparently saved Australia from an environmental hazard, by threatening to euthanase Johnny Depp’s small dogs. Primarily for this reason, he was presented with the 2015 Froggatt Award. Irony is not dead – the award is for protecting native animals and flora from invasive species.

In 2019 he completed his term as Special Drought Envoy, where he managed to spend $675,000 and ‘produced’ a report, sent by text messages, which the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, was too busy to read. David Littleproud wrote to Parliament at the time, stating that no report had been produced.

These are just some examples of how genuinely he has been found wanting in his role as a Parliamentarian, and as a Cabinet Minister. Think of an issue, and he will have likely taken the renegade position, and as likely as not, reversed his stance at some point.

He has now made an unexpected return to the position, to all the pomp and ceremony he is not really fit for, with not a dark thought appearing to cross Mr Morrison’s brow. There are said to be other allegations in the pipeline, especially within various Rural Women’s Associations.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has recently been discovered to be renting out a four-bedroom house with a pool in Tamworth for $625 a week. He failed to declare the rental income to Parliament for months, until contacted by news.com.au. He just struggles with the everyday duties and tasks.

It is plain that he sees himself as a born leader, and his recent successful tilt at the leadership of the National Party, after the ignominy of the past years, has not dampened his ardour for a life at the top. It must be said that if this man can win a leadership ballot, then it is a crook political party, and it is now led by a donkey.

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