IT’S often said that a week is a long time in politics. For Barnaby Joyce and the Turnbull government, weeks don’t get much longer than this one.
The constant media spotlight on the Deputy Prime Minister has culminated in Mr Joyce taking a week of personal leave – but not before tit for tat press conferences by the Liberal and National party leaders, taking shots at each other, which has put a strain on the Coalition’s relationship.
But how did we get here?
We all know it started with news of Mr Joyce’s affair and subsequent pregnancy with a former staffer, Vikki Campion. But from there, the media began to examine the circumstances around Ms Campion’s employment – firstly to see if Mr Joyce had broken the Ministerial Code of Conduct, which says partners of ministers cannot work in their office, nor in the officers of other ministers, without the expressed consent of the Prime Minister. Ms Campion worked in Mr Joyce’s office from May 2016 to April 2017, when she was moved to Minister Matt Canavan’s office. However, the Deputy Prime Minister side stepped this issue, by saying Ms Campion was not his partner at the time she was working in these offices.
Then there were allegations of nepotism, jobs being created specifically for Ms Campion. When she was moved to Senator Canavan’s office, she moved into a job that didn’t previously exist, wasn’t advertised and wasn’t filled when she left. Then she moved over to then Nationals whip Damian Drum, who has a staff funding allocation of six – he had to apply to have his staffing allocation expanded to seven, which was granted, just to accommodate her.
Mr Joyce’s relationship with prominent New England businessman Greg Maguire was closely examined. He was living rent free in an Armidale apartment owned by Mr Maguire, which Mr Joyce says was just a mate helping out a mate. He also pointed out he wasn’t a member of parliament at the time, as he stood down following the High Court dual-citizenship ruling.
Eventually, he became too much of a distraction for the government, and asked to have a week of leave. A few hours after this announcement, PM Malcolm Turnbull held a press conference, which publicly shamed his deputy’s action. Before he left Canberra for his week of leave, Mr Joyce returned fire, saying the PM’s comments were “inept”, “unnecessary” and “caused further harm”.
Where we go from here is anyone’s guess, but one thing is for sure – this isn’t over.