News National Barnaby Joyce runs interference again

Barnaby Joyce runs interference again

barnaby joyce
Despite being on sick leave, Mr Joyce is at it again. Photo: Seven Network
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Barnaby Joyce is back on the campaign trail. The former deputy prime minister has spectacularly inserted himself into the political maelstrom by going on national television to demand an overhaul of privacy law.

A furious Mr Joyce took to Twitter to highlight an altercation with a picture agency photographer who was taking photos of him, his partner Vikki Campion and their baby Sebastian as they left a church service.

His reappearance is yet another unwelcome diversion for the government facing three tough byelections in seven weeks’ time.

Already the Joyce soap opera, as many of his fed-up colleagues describe it, has been blamed for a spectacular drop in government support in the last Essential poll.

Mr Joyce went on Seven’s Sunrise program on Monday because he said he was trying to raise the issue of privacy and the need for better protection of it for ordinary people like Ms Campion and their child.

He is calling for a “tort of privacy” which could act as a deterrent to the paparazzi and could give victims some redress.

But Queensland Law Society vice president Bill Potts thinks it is a bad idea.

Besides Mr Joyce and his partner already signing away their privacy in a paid TV interview, he says the right for journalists to approach someone in a public place is an important safeguard for a free press doing its job.

The photographer, Guy Finlay, says he was assigned by his employer to snap the new Joyce family because they are still newsworthy.

Giving weight to that judgement is the fact inquiries by the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority is still ongoing. And that is after posing 136 questions about travel claims by Mr Joyce and his former staffer Ms Campion.

Another separate inquiry in New South Wales into a sexual harassment claim against Mr Joyce by a prominent WA woman is also incomplete. He denies any wrongdoing.

Just how any of this plays out in the five Super Saturday byelections is arguable. It certainly can’t be helpful.

The Coalition isn’t running candidates in the two WA byelections, but it is hoping to snatch a victory or two in Mayo, Longman or Braddon.

The government is citing the looming trip to the polls by half a million voters as reason for its foreign interference bills to be rushed through Parliament this month.

Attorney-General Christian Porter uses advice from Duncan Lewis, head of domestic intelligence agency ASIO, to claim the level of this interference in Australia is unprecedented.

“You weaken a democracy by creating a sense of division or dysfunction and you can very easily do that by placing opinions and trying to affect opinions and just causing general chaos in the context of elections,” Mr Porter says.

Apart from the fact Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC says no evidence has been produced to show this is happening, who needs foreign interference when you’ve got Barnaby Joyce running more than enough on his own?

Indeed, can we blame the Chinese or anyone else for the utterly flawed judgements of a senior politician like Mr Joyce?

By continuing to put himself up in lights and playing the victim he is only convincing his Nationals colleagues he has given up on the party and the government’s best interests.

There’s not much they can do about it. But as one says, he is digging his own political grave. Their worry is that he may take them all down with him.

Paul Bongiorno AM is a veteran of the Canberra Press Gallery, with 40 years’ experience covering Australian politics.

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