Barnaby Joyce is finished. That’s the firm view of colleagues in his Nationals party room in Canberra. Sunday night’s supposed tell-all paid interview on television was the last straw.
His successor as party leader, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, could scarcely contain his anger when asked about Mr Joyce’s smearing of his colleagues as “the absolute scum of the earth people that you can involve yourself with, and the dark and horrible that happens inside that mad boarding school … and that’s, that’s your Australian parliament”.
Mr Joyce’s fury was fuelled by his partner Vikki Campion allegedly being urged by “God-fearing conservatives” within the Parliament to abort their child “if you want a career in this place”.
Ms Campion said she didn’t want to tar everyone in the National Party with that brush. Mr Joyce was not so circumspect.
The mild-mannered McCormack says he was not aware of anyone doing that and urged Mr Joyce and Ms Campion to take up the matter with the unnamed people concerned. He defended his Nationals colleagues as the “finest people to represent regional Australians”.
The Joyce/Campion affair does nothing to enhance the reputation of our politicians. The $150,000 they were reportedly paid to trade their privacy on the pretext that they can set up a trust fund for their son Sebastian fails to convince or make it any better.
Mr Joyce admitted his affair meant he was living “a lie” as he presented to the public the image of a happily married man with four daughters. The most eye-catching was his appearance at last year’s Mid-Winter Ball in Canberra with his wife Natalie.
But the lie was also operating when he went to the byelection for his seat of New England in December. He appeared there as the sidelined Deputy Prime Minister waiting to be re-instated so he could continue to porkbarrel the electorate as only someone so senior in government could.
In the interview Mr Joyce said as soon as he heard about the pregnancy he knew he was going to lose his job as deputy prime minister – because he didn’t believe in abortion. That was months before the byelection.
It’s a curious re-writing of history because after his landslide win he fought tooth and nail to keep his old job. He explains that as fighting “more out of spite than logic”.
He finally gave up after the Prime Minister slammed his behaviour as appalling and an allegation of sexual misbehaviour surfaced from Western Australia.
The interview was certainly not an exercise in political accountability.
There were no questions about the use or abuse of taxpayers’ money.
Nor on how the handsomely paid deputy PM used his influence to move a staffer, Ms Campion, from his office to another in a higher-paid position created for her and then on to another, where she attracted paid stress leave before starting work there.
At face value this occurred in breach of the ministerial guidelines and embroils the prime minister’s office, if not the Prime Minister himself, signing off on everything.
Other questions relating to travel entitlements and on just when Ms Campion went from a fling, to mistress, to partner, were left somewhere in the ether.
A clue to Barnaby’s modus operandi was the Fairfax story that he wrote a personal letter to the Prime Minister to support billionaire Gina Rinehart’s National Agriculture Day.
In the end Mr Joyce’s department donated $60,000 to the event at which Ms Rinehart shocked everyone by naming the deputy prime minister a “champion of farming” and handing him a $40,000 cheque.
The ensuing uproar saw Mr Joyce hand it back 24 hours later.
It is this record of utterly flawed judgement and self-interest that has convinced his party room and branch members in New England they would all be better served if he gave up on his tattered career.