I was hoping today was going to be Barnaby-Joyce-free day but, in the current climate, that was never going to be possible. Especially when Joyce is the political gift that keeps on giving for the Labor Party, and the mainstream media, as well as uncovering the lid that could lead to the pathway of massive levels of government corruption.
Nothing excites the public and the media more than old-fashioned tales of politicians with their snouts in the trough, corruption, scamming, and associated ill-gotten gains. The mainstream media which, essentially, forms a part of the political establishment, recently had their noses out of joint when the convenient bi-partisan tryst they have with conservative politics broke down after the news of Joyce’s travails become public knowledge – through one of their own at The Daily Telegraph, political editor, Sharri Markson.
Over at Fairfax, The Guardian and the ABC, the convenience of “private lives remain private” for politicians was thoroughly smashed, and the pusillanimous excuses on offer were almost as comical as the reports of the nature of the affair between Joyce and his staffer, Vicki Campion, being drip-fed through the news cycle. But now, after Joyce’s actions were initially revealed in independent media sources in October last year – which have proven to be correct, even though mainstream media with its vastly superior access to resources and reporters, seemed to know nothing about it at the time – all media has now joined in, and for good reason.
What we’re witnessing now is old-style corruption, in the style of former Queensland Premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
Mainstream media misjudged the public mood for reporting this type of political misbehaviour. Since these stories broke last week, online readership has increased for the Sydney Morning Herald, ABC News and News.com.au by almost 30 per cent and sales of The Daily Telegraph are reportedly up by 10 per cent. In these times of falling news revenues, this is good boost for mainstream media.
The latest offering to the public now is both Joyce and Campion are on leave, fully funded by the Australian taxpayer. Campion is officially on stress leave, which expires at the end of this week, and Joyce is on personal leave for all of next week. Of course, the leave and benefits that are available to all members to the electorate should also be extended to the political class and their attaches, but it is reasonable for both Joyce and Campion to claim leave for a situation they’ve completely initiated themselves?
How far can the generosity of taxpayer be extended for these types of actions?
The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has now banned Government ministers from having sex with his staff after he criticised Joyce’s “shocking error of judgement”. In the bizzaro world of Canberra politics, it’s indicative of the workplace culture that lives on in Parliament House.
It’s 2018 and the Prime Minister specifically needs to announce an edict that Minister’s shouldn’t have sex with their staff – remember, this is Parliament House, not some small hidden company on the outskirts of Tamworth, where a wealthy lecherous owner ogles his beauties in his office, lunching with the favourites, hoping to get his fun on the side and knowing he’ll get away with it, because he’s the only boss in town that can offer his staff such a good level of pay.
So, we need to read this again – ministers will be banned from having sexual relationships with staffers. Members of parliament need to be specifically told that this is not such a great idea? Have they not been reading the news about Amber Harrison and her former boss at Channel 7, Tim Worner? Or perhaps they haven’t heard about the case of CEO Mark McInnes over at David Jones? Or perhaps it’s been such a long time they may have overlooked the biggest political affair of our time, the relationship between US President, Bill Clinton, and his political intern, Monika Lewinsky during the 1990s?
Or closer to home, perhaps they haven’t read Section 3 of the Australian Public Service Values and Code of Conduct, which covers acceptable behaviours in the workplace?
Already, mainstream media is lining up behind its friends in establishment, with The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy declaring:
“Turnbull is to be applauded for taking on gender, and calling out the structural power imbalances in testosterone-fuelled bro-zones like professional politics, and for having the desire to drag Canberra’s crass, smug and self-satisfied ‘one rule for us club’ into some kind of equivalence with workplace standards that exist elsewhere, correctly, in the age of #MeToo. God knows women have been waiting long enough for that kind of signal. It’s about time it was sent, in clarion terms, and by a political leader.”
Gosh Katharine, steady on. All Turnbull has done is outline a code of conduct that should already exist in Parliament House, not create a new world order for feminism and become a world leader in eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace.
And journalist Paul Bongiorno mentioned Turnbull’s actions are “brave”. Brave? In which way? Turnbull has mentioned nothing at all about the possible misuse and corruption of public funds, something that may also implicate himself.
The main game is still the underlying corruption of Barnaby Joyce but what is being done to reel him in? For too long, Joyce has been left off his leash, and is a damaging and corrupt presence in Australian politics. He has been loud voice for his brand of conservative rural politics and vociferously attacked welfare dependents, single mothers, and pretty much anything that exists outside of his narrowly defined world. He is the ugly beast of Australian politics and rules the New England region in the same way power is understood Russia—corruption, intimidation, money, power, as well as sex with whoever he decides to have sex with. Barnaby Joyce is the Vladimir Putin of Australian politics, without the secret police in tow.
It’s the standard the National Party seems to accept, as it is up to them to remove Joyce from the position of leader (and, therefore, the position of Deputy Prime Minister). But it seems Joyce is not going anywhere, except for a period of leave next week, where he can save the government the embarrassment of being the Acting Prime Minister while Malcolm Turnbull is overseas.
The only positive factor to come out this sordid tale is that it has shone the light on the many nefarious activities of Barnaby Joyce, and more questions will be coming out. Why did Joyce claim travel allowance for 50 days in Canberra when parliament wasn’t sitting? Sure, there is parliamentary business for a party leader, and Deputy Prime Minister, to carry out outside of the normal sitting days, but the previous leader of the National Party, Warren Truss, spent a maximum of 35 days per year during his time as leader, which spanned between 2013 to early 2016.
More questions are now being asked of the relationship between Joyce and Tamworth businessman, Greg Maguire, relating to federal infrastructure projects, the provision of a rent-free apartment to Joyce and Campion, and income streaming from the federal government into his Powerhouse Hotel in Armidale, ever since the controversial relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority in 2016.
And there are also more questions being asked of his properties in Gwabegar, near the development of the Western Slopes gas pipeline and the proposed route of the Melbourne–Brisbane Inland Rail project. The only public comments Joyce has made about his properties has been that the properties are “mongrel land”, that he’s “happy to sell the land” and had informally instructed a local real estate agent to sell the properties if he could “get the right price”.
But what is the right price? And where exactly is this property? And how much of the $10.9 billion cost of the Inland Rail project will be diverted to the benefactors of the National Party, and the likes of Greg Maguire?
When Joyce resigned from Parliament in September last year after he was ruled to have dual citizenship by the High Court, grassroot members of the National Party chipped in almost $48,000 to pay Joyce’s salary during the six-week period he was out of Parliament. Could he not have sold his “mongrel land” or obtained a bridging loan to cover his time without income? When does the ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘knock-about’ Joyce get off the gravy train?
Someone on a salary of $416,000 and asset rich couldn’t afford to ride out an income-free period of six weeks, but had to rely on low-income National Party supporters and pensioners, and solicit a political donor for a rent-free apartment for him and his new partner? What has he been spending his vast salary on? Are there any other pecuniary interests that we need to be aware of, or any other plans he may have hatched with Greg Maguire?
Labor’s proposal to create a national corruption commission cannot come soon enough. In the event of Labor winning the next federal election, I expect Joyce and a number of other National Party politicians, to be among the very first to appear, and there’s enough material to keep such a body very busy for a very long time.