Life on the backbench was meant to be slower for former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, but his first interview as a humble MP was sweaty, frenetic and a little distracted.
“I’m talking very fast aren’t I?” he gasped mid-sentence, catching his breath after a game of touch football on the grounds of Parliament House.
Mr Joyce rejected claims his replacement, Michael McCormack, was merely warming the seat for him to return once he’d recovered from an admittedly “crazy” few weeks.
“I think Michael has a big job in front of him and I wish him the best,” Mr Joyce said.
“It is an incredible position, the deputy prime minister of our Australia.”
But Mr Joyce didn’t rule out returning to that position one day, saying to do so raised the prospect of him looking like a “hypocrite” later in his career.
“I don’t expect return, but I will always do the very best job I possibly can in any role given to me,” Mr Joyce said.
He also gave an assurance he would not take shots at colleagues who may have orchestrated his political demise.
“I am going to use this opportunity to get around the electorate and deal with the people, who when I was deputy prime minister, didn’t have as much chance to see me.”
Mr Joyce suggested his maverick reputation might continue on the backbench, which could raise a few eyebrows given he crossed the floor 28 times while sitting as a Queensland senator. He was asked about suggestions he might be “Tony Abbott-esque” on the backbench.
“I will be Barnaby,” he said. “You have to remember I had a lot of experience on the backbench in the Senate, it’s not a job I haven’t done before.
“It reminded me of going back to the Senate, I don’t wallow in it, I just get on with it.”
Mr Joyce’s resignation on Monday has not stopped damaging political headlines for the Coalition, with Senate estimates revealing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ordered a high-level investigation into his conduct.
Mr Turnbull called off the investigation after Mr Joyce’s resignation, but another inquiry into his travel entitlements is ongoing.
“All I can say is we have had so many FOIs and discussions, and this apparently is another one,” Mr Joyce told reporters.