Barnaby Joyce and the affair that refuses to quit. Literally and figuratively. Against his better judgement, Ross Hamilton enters the fray.
I was going to stay right out of the Barnaby Joyce kerfuffle. Mr B. Rooter has done an excellent job of providing plenty of fodder for better writers than me. But the Purple Vegetable’s latest press statements make one thing clear. The Leader of the National Party, our Deputy Prime Minister, simply Does. Not. Get. It.
From the moment the news broke about Barnaby Joyce and Vikki Campion, his hypocrisy has been blatant. For all his blather during the Same Sex Marriage debate about the sanctity of marriage and so forth, he was having it off on the side with one of his staff.
No wonder even his daughters were allegedly telling people during the New England by-election to vote for anyone but him. The Australian also recently reported that the Nationals even considered dropping Joyce for the by-election because of his relationship with Campion.
There certainly is a morality issue here. And that is for Barnaby to sort out. Nor am I simplistic enough to think Joyce is the only MP or Senator having a bit on the side with staff or other inappropriate relationships. Where did Bill Shorten meet his second wife?
The Purple Vegetable’s story keeps falling apart. Take for example his freebie accommodation courtesy of his mate Greg Maguire. Joyce keeps insisting that he did not ask for that freebie, that Maguire was just helping him as ‘mates do for each other’. Yet other reports in other news outlets have Maguire denying he offered the accommodation but instead it was Joyce who approached him.
Other reports note that staff from Joyce’s office contacted Maguire on Joyce’s behalf. It also emerged that the townhouse the happy couple are living in was on the market for some three years only to be abruptly taken off the market for Barney and Vik to move in.
If Joyce or his staff did indeed ask Maguire for that freebie, then he was in breach of Ministerial standards, something he steadfastly denies. Yet Maguire’s denial adds considerable fuel to that particular fire under Joyce’s feet.
In 2017, in the period after Joyce says he became estranged from his wife, there were plenty of travel bucks being spent. But with Joyce claiming he was estranged from his wife, how much of that travel included paying for seats and accommodation for his girlfriend? Not looking good for Joyce, especially after the happy couple were spotted holidaying together around Christmas time. Of course, if Barney has only spent his own money on that, then that is just fine and dandy. But how often do our Federal pollies go anywhere without the public paying for at least part of it – e.g. rental cars?
Then there is the matter of Ms Campion herself – how did she get into this mess? Joyce employed Vikki Campion as a media advisor in his personal office. She was suddenly moved to the office of Resources Minister Matt Canavan once things started getting ugly. After Canavan stood aside during the dual citizenship saga, lo and behold, another job suddenly appeared in the office of Nationals whip Damian Drum. Joyce’s Nationals colleagues keep claiming innocence, that they didn’t know what was going on. Pretty hard to believe that, all things considered.
The PM and co have declared their hands are clean, insisting staffing of National’s offices is a matter for the Nationals, with the PM’s Department merely having an administrative role in advising the likes of Finance what people went where. The PM confirmed that the Nationals are entitled to a specific share of the overall government’s staffing pool. But for that to be realistic, then the way in which these positions are shared around the National’s MPs and Senators must be considered.
Campion left Joyce’s office, are we expected to believe that he then did without the services of a media advisor? Was she replaced? If she was, then for her to be employed in the office of one of Joyce’s party mates would mean either a vacancy occurred, or a position was created. It seems remarkably convenient that not one but two jobs for a media advisor suddenly appeared at just the right time in other offices. Or were extra positions created to house the Deputy PM’s girlfriend?
How clean would everyone’s hands be if an independent audit of staffing numbers happened to reveal a discrepancy in that Nationals’ staffing, because more of Joyce’s mates did him favours?
Joyce still seems to think it is merely a question of morality and that it will all blow over like a dose of food poisoning, insisting even if you do eat some dodgy fish that makes you crook, before long you will be sitting down to a feed of barramundi at the local pub.
The problem, Barney, is that your credibility has taken a major hit which is going to last a lot longer than a dose of the squirts. Legitimate, serious questions have been raised that directly relate to your honesty and judgement.
There is only one way these questions can be answered. They must be subject to proper, independent investigation. If any dodgy expenditure is revealed or wrongful manipulation of Nationals staffing just in order to keep Joyce’s girlfriend in a job, then it all ceases to be dodgy, and becomes blatantly corrupt.
If only we had an anti-corruption unit at the Federal level to investigate things. But as the PM and co keep insisting, one isn’t needed because corruption doesn’t and wouldn’t ever occur at their level.
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