Barnaby Joyce to take personal leave, won’t be Acting PM

GONE FISHING: Barnaby Joyce will take the week off.
GONE FISHING: Barnaby Joyce will take the week off.

AS the media spotlight intensifies, Barnaby Joyce has announced he is taking a week of leave, starting from Monday.

He was due to step up as Acting Prime Minister, as Malcolm Turnbull travels to the United States.

Normally, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop would fill the position, as she did when Mr Joyce was forced to step down after the High Court ruled him ineligible to stand due to his New Zealand dual-citizenship.

However, she will be on a pre-arranged trip to Europe. Instead, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann will fill the role.

Mr Joyce’s office has released the following statement: “The Deputy Prime Minister is on leave next week after he advised the Prime Minister he wanted to support his family and partner after such intense public focus on personal matters.”

A ReachTEL poll conducted by Fairfax Media found just under half, 45.3 per cent, of voters in the seat want Mr Joyce to remain as party leader and deputy PM.

But 26.7 per cent said Mr Joyce should move to the backbench, and another 20.5 per cent said he should quit Parliament altogether, with 7.5 per cent undecided.

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Mr Joyce faced intense scrutiny over his relationship with prominent New England businessman Greg Maguire, who provided the New England MP with rent-free accommodation in Armidale.

Mr Joyce said Mr Maguire told him: “You're living out of a suitcase and this is basically something that I should try and help you with”.

“I took him up on the offer but I offered to pay for it,” Mr Joyce said.

“He said basically mates don't pay for things when they're helping other mates out and that's precisely what happened.”

Mr Joyce also pointed out that at the time, he was not a member of parliament, he was “basically a person standing for election”.

“Nonetheless it’s quite clear that I did not approach Mr Maguire for assistance. Mr Maguire approached me and offered help.”

He was also grilled in question time about $5000 that was given to the Armidale Powerhouse Hotel, which is owned by Mr Maguire, by Department of Agriculture, in 2016 when Mr Joyce was Agriculture Minister.

Mr Joyce said he was unaware of the payment. Current Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the payment was made in relation to a stakeholder function and meeting of the Agricultural Industry Advisory Council.

Meanwhile, the Labor and the Greens teamed up to pass a motion that called for the Deputy Prime Minister to be sacked.

“The Senate calls on the Deputy Prime Minister to resign from his position of Deputy Prime Minister of Australia for clearly breaching the standards required of Ministers; and if he does not resign, calls on the National Party to sack him as leader,” the motion said.

Earlier on Thursday The Northern Daily Leader answered why the media is covering the Barnaby Joyce saga nine days after it broke. Here’s the answer.

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