Tonight, Barnaby Joyce is under strong pressure to resign from his position as Deputy Prime Minister, and from Parliament, after a meeting with senior National MPs in Canberra.
This follows the political fallout from his relationship with his former staffer, Vikki Campion, and the realisation his position has become untenable, as well as becoming a political liability for the Liberal–National government.
Although the relationship was first reported widely within independent media sources in October 2017, it was only after Sharri Markson announced the affair in The Daily Telegraph last week that the story finally gained traction, revealing another set of cover-ups behind the scenes. As was the case with the original Watergate scandal, it wasn’t the original incident which makes Joyce’s position untenable, but the process of covering up the relationship by shifting Campion from office to office in very well paid and seemingly unneeded positions to placate Joyce’s office staff, after Campion’s presence and the ongoing affair created a high level of stress and dysfunction in his office.
The Australian electorate is fair-minded and accepts politicians are made up of the same human frailties as many other people in the community, and understands marriages do break up, and extra-marital affairs exist in the real world. But what they won’t accept is cover-ups, misuse of public funds, and the political machinations that result in undue personal reward for politicians. And it seems the reasons why Barnaby Joyce is in parliament is more about personal reward and self-aggrandisement – as well as cultivating his personal relationships – rather than community development and representing his electorate.
In response to Labor’s announcement to establish an independent federal anti-corruption body should it win the next federal election, Joyce’s immediate response was to say such an anti-corruption body was “not needed”, as the current Senate, through its committee structures, showed that the current system had “capacity to get to the bottom of issues, as things stand”.
However, the Senate is not a body that can recommend criminal charges, and has never convicted anyone for corrupt behavior – that’s not the role of the Senate. In all of the time of parliament, going back to federation in 1901, there have been only three sitting politicians charged and convicted with corrupt activities they undertook during their time in Parliament – National’s MP Michael Cobb in 1998 for rorting his travel expenses; Labor/independent Andrew Theophanous in 2002 for bribery and fraud; and Labor/independent Craig Thomson in 2014 for theft and fraud.
And it’s no surprise Joyce would resist any moves towards the creation of a federal anti-corruption body and leave matters up to the Senate – firstly, because the Senate can’t do anything about such matters and, secondly, he would, more than likely, be one of the first to appear at such a body, and for a number of reasons.
Aside from the current issue of contravening the parliamentary code of conduct for creating the two positions for Campion, there are other issues that could do with further investigation – the move of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority and 175 staff from Canberra to Armidale, 700 kilometres away – despite a $270,000 cost-benefit analysis produced by Ernst and Young which recommended against the move, and a move opposed by the National Famers Federation; and the seat of New England electorate receiving $17 million in community grants – 13 per cent of the NSW’s entire community grant income from 2013 to the 2016 election.
There is also Joyce’s role in water re-allocations in the Murray–Darling Basin between states, and overlooking ‘water theft’ that has been occurring in far western New South Wales.
On a personal level, there’s also the relationship between Joyce and Greg Maguire, a Tamworth businessman who owns the apartment Joyce and Campion are currently residing in, rent-free; as well as the relationship between Joyce and mining magnate, Gina Rinehart, who allegedly donated $700,000 to Joyce’s election campaign in 2013.
People such as Barnaby Joyce are not wanted in Parliament. They’re a blight on the political landscape and are more in tune with lining their own pockets, than the needs of the community. Joyce wields a special type of raw power that is destructive and not conducive to good governance.
He’s under pressure to resign, but not all of his National comrades are sure. Queensland National Senator, Barry O’Sullivan said that Joyce is a “once-in-a-generation type of politician”. That might be true, but so was the corrupt former Premier of Queensland, Joh Bjelke-Petersen.