A caustic text message from Barnaby Joyce has emerged in which he labelled Prime Minister Scott Morrison a “liar” and “hypocrite” and stated that he had “never trusted him”.
The Deputy PM’s mobile message was sent in March 2021, when he was a backbencher, to a middle person who forwarded it to former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins at the time her rape allegation was rocking federal parliament.
At a hastily convened press conference on Saturday morning, Mr Joyce said he had offered to resign over the leaked text message but Mr Morrison had rejected the offer.
The text, published by Nine newspapers, was sent by Mr Joyce on March 22, 2021, to a third party. It was then passed to Ms Higgins.
It came a month after Ms Higgins went public with allegations she was raped in a ministerial office at parliament house in 2019.
It is the second text to emerge this week from Mr Morrison’s own side of politics which slams the PM’s integrity. Earlier in the week, texts from former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian described Mr Morrison as a “horrible, horrible person” were also leaked.
Ms Higgins released Mr Joyce’s SMS to Nine Newspapers. They published the content late on Friday, after the Nationals leader had fronted the news to criticise the anonymous leaker behind the Berejiklian text.
The content of Mr Joyce’s message to Brittany reads:
“Tell BH [Brittany Higgins] I and Scott, he is Scott to me until I have to recognise his office, don’t get along.
“He is a hypocrite and a liar from my observations and that is over a long time.
“I have never trusted him and I dislike how he earnestly rearranges the truth to a lie.”
After learning the private message had been shared with the media, Mr Joyce issued an “unreserved” apology to Mr Morrison and said it was well known the pair had not seen “eye to eye” at the time.
“I have unreservedly apologised to the Prime Minister for my comments,” he said in a statement.
“It is common knowledge that in the past the Prime Minister and I had not always seen eye to eye.
“But I have worked extremely closely with the Prime Minister over the last seven months since I returned to the role of Deputy Prime Minister; and the Prime Minister is a person of high integrity and honesty in what is possibly the most difficult job in the nation.”
The text revelation comes as Mr Morrison is under pressure about the high number of deaths in aged care and after a summer of COVID that was marked by shortages of rapid tests and workforce chaos.
Addressing the latest development, Mr Morrison said “relationships change over time” and that he and Mr Joyce now worked well together.
“I understand Barnaby was in a different headspace last year, both professionally and personally, and so I know he genuinely no longer feels this way,” he said.
“Relationships change over time. Politicians are humans beings too. We all have our frailties and none of us are perfect.
“Since coming to the role of DPM, it is fair to say that we both positively surprised each other. We were never close before this and never pretended to be.
“But in these roles, we have really found our rhythm, as we have concluded AUKUS, settled our climate change policy and continued to fight the pandemic.”
At the time of Mr Joyce’s text, he was a backbencher after resigning as deputy prime minister in February 2018 because of his affair with staffer Vikki Campion, now his fiancee.
Earlier Mr Joyce had fronted the TV news to criticise the anonymous person behind the Berejiklian text, accusing the leaker of “vindictiveness”.
“It’s indicative of a person who won’t put their name to it and won’t stand behind it and decides instead they’ll release it anonymously,” he told the ABC.
“Whether it was them or through a third party or them releasing somebody else’s details, they’ve done it for the purpose of creating hurt. They’ve done it out of malice. They’ve done it out of vindictiveness. They’ve done it for the purpose of creating damage.
“I think people see through it and they say well, it’s not so much what was written, it was the motivation of the person who leaked it. They’ve leaked it out of malice and they won’t actually stand behind it and say it was them.”