The office of the federal government’s Chief Whip has confirmed it has fired a staffer over an email mocking the former prime minister and deputy prime minister.
An official email was sent from the office of Nola Marino – the Chief Government Whip and federal Member for Forrest – on Monday morning with an old image of Tony Abbott sitting and chatting with Barnaby Joyce on the backbench in the House of Representatives.
The image compared the men to school children and suggested Mr Joyce had gotten into trouble and was now forced to sit next to “the weird kid no-one likes”.
The email, which was recalled just minutes later, was sent to numerous journalists.
It was later confirmed that Ryan Hadjimihalakis, a media adviser who also goes by the name Ryan Hadji, had been sacked for sending the email.
Political analyst Martin Drum said if the image and comments were taken seriously, it could make Ms Marino’s job particularly difficult.
“Where it’s a bit awkward is this is the Whip’s office, who is the person responsible for making sure all of the Liberal MPs turn up to vote on time,” Mr Drum said.
“It’s very tight numbers in the Federal Parliament at the moment.”
It came on the day Mr Joyce officially moved to the backbench, following his resignation as leader of the National Party on Friday over a scandal surrounding his affair with a former staffer.
“I think there’s a very real concern for the government because Barnaby Joyce, before he became a minister, was very outspoken,” Mr Drum said.
“He made his reputation through speaking out against public policy, about government policy, at different times.
“If he were to take that path again, that would be a real headache for the government.”
On Monday morning, the Nationals chose Michael McCormack as its new leader and Australia’s new Deputy Prime Minister.
Mr McCormack triumphed after a last-minute challenge from firebrand Queensland Nationals MP George Christensen.