Barnaby Joyce has defended his use of taxpayer funded travel expenses to stay in Canberra for almost two months while parliament wasn’t sitting, saying he was “minister for everything” at the time.
The former deputy prime minister was cleared on Thursday of misusing his expenses to spend time with his adviser-turned-partner Vikki Campion.
Now, “all this other rubbish can move on,” Mr Joyce told the Seven Network on Friday, saying he wants to get back to business.
Mr Joyce claimed at least $16,000 in refunds for 58 days he spent in Canberra in 2017 when parliament wasn’t even sitting.
That compared to just 12 nights in 2015 and in 2016.
The Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority said it had to take the ex-Nationals leader at his word that he was telling the truth about his Canberra stays.
The New England MP said he always expected to be cleared by the expenses authority, and that after “hundreds of questions” auditors found “not one single dollar misspent”.
“I was just about minister for everything at one stage – Northern Australia, resources, water, agriculture, deputy prime minister, national security committee, expenditure review committee, deputy of cabinet,” he told Seven.
“If you want to go through the work that’s involved in that, good luck, mate. But you’ll find that you do most of it in your office.”
Asked how Ms Campion and his three-month-old son Sebastian are, Mr Joyce said “they are going well”, and he now wants to “get back to my job” and debate issues such as power prices.
“That is what I’m worried about and what I’m going to be fighting for,” he said.
Michael McCormack, who replaced Mr Joyce as deputy prime minister and Nationals leader after he quit over the scandal, agreed “you do have to spend a lot of time in Canberra as a minister, particularly in the role that Barnaby was in.
“I’m in that role now and I do spend a lot of nights in Canberra during those weeks that are not parliamentary sitting weeks,” he told Sky News.
“The independent authority has cleared him, so nothing more to be seen.”