“I’LL be Barnaby.”
That was the former deputy prime minister’s response to questions about whether he would be openly critical of the government from the backbench, as former prime minister Tony Abbott has.
Mr Joyce has promised not to snipe at his colleagues from the backbench, but didn’t rule out another tilt as Nationals leader.
“I never rule anything in or anything out because later on in life you look like a hypocrite,” Mr Joyce said.
“I don’t expect to ever return but I will do the very best job I can in any role that is given to me.”
As Mr Joyce settles into his new seat on the backbench, his travel and accommodation claims, along with those of his former staffer and new partner Vikki Campion, are being independently investigated.
However, Mr Joyce seemed unconcerned by the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority inquiry and was confident nothing would be found.
“Everybody’s been through every iteration,” Mr Joyce said.
“It’s just another poring through what’s already been gone through.”
The Leader lodged a Freedom Of Information request to Mr Joyce’s office, seeking the MP’s diary of meeting locations for the first quarter of 2017, to cross reference with his travel records.
However, the office is yet to respond.
Mr Joyce’s travel expenses are also expected to be closely examined during this week’s senate estimates.
A poll by The Guardian found voters were vastly more concerned by the potential misuse of entitlements or improper exercise of ministerial authority, than they were by Mr Joyce’s affair.
The survey showed 50 per cent of voters were worried about Ms Campion being moved between the offices of Nationals politicians after she left the employ of Mr Joyce, while 60 per cent were concerned about the potential for the excessive use of taxpayer-funded travel entitlements.
Less than a quarter – 23 per cent – said they were concerned Mr Joyce had a sexual relationship with a staffer.
On Monday, it was revealed that an inquiry – ordered by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – into whether Mr Joyce had breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct at any point during his affair was quashed when he stood down as deputy prime minister, as there was “little to gain by continuing the investigation”.
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