Joyce admits he knew as soon as Campion was pregnant that he’d lose his job


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Barnaby Joyce has said he knew as soon as Vikki Campion found she was pregnant that he would lose his job as deputy prime minister, in a tell-all interview sure to further infuriate colleagues already angry at the damage he has caused the government.

In the couple’s much-anticipated appearance on the Seven Network Joyce, asked his reaction when Campion had a positive pregnancy test, said he didn’t believe in abortion “so I just knew straight away that … I was going to lose my job as the deputy prime minister”.

But it was only in February – after he was re-elected at the December 2 New England byelection and following the baby story breaking in the media as well as allegations against him of sexual harassment – that Joyce finally quit the Nationals leadership.

“I knew that the day would come that I had to step down – I wasn’t going to have Seb as the deputy prime minister of Australia. … I suppose towards the end I was fighting more out of spite than logic and just thinking, I’m not going to let these people beat us,” Joyce said.

In the pre-recorded interview aired on Sunday night, during which Joyce and Campion sometimes disagreed and she was often emotional, Campion accused conservatives “within the parliament” of pressing her to have an abortion.

She didn’t identify anyone but said these people had told her she had to get an abortion because “if you don’t they’re going to come after you”.

Pushed to be more specific she said “can I just say conservatives, you know, people who are supposed to be conservatives.” When it was put to her, “god fearing conservatives”, she said, “Yeah I wouldn’t want to tar the brush of everyone in the National party as like that at all”.

Campion, Joyce’s former staffer and now partner, said she thought a woman had the right to choose an abortion up until the baby had a heartbeat, and she disclosed had considered one. She had bought medicine online, but decided she could not do it. She then thought she might be having the baby on her own.

The Seven Network paid a reported $150,000 for the interview which Joyce and Campion are putting into a trust fund for Sebastian, who was born in April.

Joyce sought to stop Campion answering questions about a confrontation in Tamworth between his wife Natalie and her. “You don’t have to answer it darl”, he told her, saying he wanted to make certain they weren’t putting someone else in the interview who mightn’t wish to be part of it. “Natalie has every right to be left alone”.

Campion did however say “I can’t repeat the words on television” that had been said.

She also said she was “deeply hurt” when Joyce had publicly said the child’s paternity was a “grey” area. Joyce told the program they had made the decision together for him to say something but Campion said, “I didn’t say use the words grey area”. Joyce sought to explain the comment by referring to the media pressure they were under at the time.

With some speculation that he might not seek re-election, Joyce gave no hint about his plans for the future. He is currently on leave, with a medical certificate, until mid June. The leave followed a backlash last week, including from some colleagues, at the paid interview.




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Campion said of the whole saga, that she “never intended for any of this to happen. I never intended for anyone to be hurt and I am sorry”.

But Joyce said the “fault doesn’t revolve around Vikki, it resides with me”.

“I don’t like them looking at you and saying ‘the Scarlet woman’ That’s bullshit, you know. It takes two to tango and I was part of that”.

Campion took a swipe at Malcolm Turnbull over his attack on Joyce over his “shocking error of judgement”.

The Conversation“It’s like you can chew out your vice captain in the locker room but not on the field”, she said.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Barnaby Joyce’s decision to sell his story is a breach of professional ethics


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Barnaby Joyce blames his latest troubles on the absence of a general right to sue for breach of privacy.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Denis Muller, University of Melbourne

Barnaby Joyce’s decision to accept money – reportedly $150,000 – from Channel Seven in return for giving an interview about his relationship with his former staffer Vikki Campion, calls into question his fitness for public office.

It betrays a complete lack of understanding of the convention that in democratic political systems, public officials are accountable through the media to the people. That responsibility to be accountable comes with public office. It is not a marketable commodity.

To treat it as such is a fundamental breach of the professional ethics of a public officeholder.




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So far, his fellow Coalition MPs have failed to come to grips with this central problem. While none of those who have spoken publicly have tried to defend Joyce’s decision, most have either equivocated or contented themselves with general statements of disapproval.

Michael McCormack, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the National Party, which Joyce represents in the seat of New England, told ABC radio he would “have a yarn” to Joyce, as if it were some casual matter of no particular importance.

Malcolm Turnbull, who previously got himself in hot water by preaching morals to Barnaby Joyce about marital fidelity, this time is saying he will be “circumspect” and speak to him in private.

To date, only the Financial Services Minister, Kelly O’Dwyer, has spoken her mind publicly, saying she believed most Australians would be “disgusted” by Joyce’s behaviour.

As if it couldn’t get any worse, has Joyce now hung Vikki Campion out to dry, saying it was she who made the decision to accept the money.

From a professional ethics perspective, it makes no difference which of them made the decision. The fact is their relationship became a matter of legitimate public interest once it was revealed it led to the expenditure of public money in finding Campion a government job outside Joyce’s office, given her presence inside it had become untenable because of their affair.

Several other factors added to the legitimate public interest in the matter, because in the end they brought about his resignation as deputy prime minister:

  • his poor judgement in allowing the relationship with Campion to develop as it did while she remained on his staff;

  • his prevarication on the question of whether she was actually his partner at various relevant times;

  • his deplorable public airing of doubt about the child’s paternity, and

  • his determination to cling to office in the face of sustained pressure from his colleagues that he should go.

In a democratic society, public officials are held to account for mistakes like these. The media are the primary means by which this is done: that is what is meant by the term the “fourth estate”. It does not rest on formal legal power but on a convention that has its roots in 18th century English constitutional arrangements.

When a convention that is so central to the working of democracy is flouted, as it has been here, both parties – Joyce and Channel Seven – are seriously at fault.

To reduce these abstractions to everyday language, if someone says: “I was paid to say that” the ordinary reasonable person is entitled to disbelieve what was paid for.




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When that happens in an exchange between a public official and a media outlet, the accountability required by convention is subverted.

As for Channel Seven, it is subject to the television industry code of practice. It is a limited document, silent on the ethical issues raised here.

Now, the code needs to be amended to make this kind of arrangement a breach punishable by the imposition of a condition on the broadcaster’s licence.

This makes it a matter for the broadcasting regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, which is required to approve the code and is empowered to have it reviewed.

Meanwhile, we may sit back and marvel at the hypocrisy involved, as Campion complains to the Australian Press Council about the newspapers’ breach of privacy in reporting her pregnancy, while she and Joyce take money from a television channel to tell even more about it.

And Joyce blames it all on the absence of a general right to sue for breach of privacy. If there had been such a law, he says, then he and Campion would not have been subject to invasive drones and paparazzi stakeouts at their home. If they had not been persecuted like that, they would not have felt the need to be compensated by selling their story.

The ConversationThe logic is not persuasive, but if he survives in office, perhaps Joyce could bring forward a private member’s bill introducing a tort of privacy.

Denis Muller, Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Barnaby Joyce: the story of an unlikely rise and a self-inflicted fall



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Barnaby Joyce’s departure to the backbench obviously brings immediate relief for the government and the Nationals.
AAP/Marlon Dalton

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

In the end, the tough man crumpled. For a fortnight Barnaby Joyce had resembled someone out in the snow who’d broken through the pain threshold, as he defied massive pressure and political common sense to try to cling to his job.

But as the scandal engulfing him tore at the government, he finally gave way; on his own account, a sexual harassment allegation that was revealed publicly only on Thursday was the last straw.

Most observers thought the saga had to come to Friday’s conclusion. The media stories weren’t going to stop. They were of two kinds. There were those surrounding the employment arrangements made for his former staffer and now pregnant partner Vikki Campion. The others were the various claims of inappropriate behaviour that kept surfacing.

His Nationals colleagues, despite their admiration for Joyce’s campaigning and other abilities, looked on aghast during the last two weeks, increasingly pessimistic about the way things were going. Never mind his enemies – by Thursday, even his loyalists could not see a way through.




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Within the government, clearly the relationship with Malcolm Turnbull was gone after the prime minister’s extraordinary personal attack last week and Joyce’s counterpunch. The staged weekend meeting to suggest a patch-up was farcical.

The fact that Joyce informed Acting Prime Minister Mathias Cormann, rather than Turnbull himself, of his impending resignation announcement says it all. Joyce’s opinion of Turnbull now likely matches what Tony Abbott thinks of Turnbull. Abbott had a thinly veiled jibe in his tribute to Joyce, saying “part of the problem has been poor management at the most senior levels of government”.

Joyce’s departure to the backbench obviously brings immediate relief for the government and the Nationals. What it will mean beyond that is more difficult to predict.

Michael McCormack, from New South Wales, seems virtually certain to become the new Nationals leader. He’s a junior minister with a relatively low profile, and has sometimes been shielded in parliament’s Question Time by more senior ministerial colleagues. The party is moving in behind McCormack, because there is no real alternative, and in an effort to show it is regrouping.

Another NSW National, David Gillespie, has also put up his hand – despite still waiting on a High Court decision about his constitutional eligibility to sit in parliament. But he is not a chance.

McCormack might grow into the job, as leaders sometimes do. Tim Fischer (unkindly) likes to remind me that I wrote him off when he became leader, and then had to acknowledge how well he turned out.

But taking over in these circumstances will be hard going for the new chief, who must sell himself in the electorate as well as establish enough authority within the government to enable the Nationals to punch above their numerical weight.

In the parliament, the Nationals are a top-down party. They number only 21, so they need their leadership to be strong – ideally not just the leader but their other senior ministers as well.

They are eons from the glory days of John McEwen, Doug Anthony, Ian Sinclair and Peter Nixon. But Joyce, under whom the party performed well at the 2016 election, enabled it to hold its own in the Coalition.

His successor will step into a Coalition climate in which many Liberals are furious that the Joyce scandal and the Nationals’ failure to resolve it quickly wiped out the government’s good start to the year. Also, even before all this happened, the rural Liberals, looking for more bounty and kudos, were flexing their muscle against their Nationals colleagues.




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Joyce (like Abbott before him) says he won’t snipe from the backbench. They all say that, the cynic might observe (especially a cynic watching Abbott’s run-up to Turnbull’s expected 30 losing Newspolls).

On the other hand, Joyce’s fall is different from that of Abbott. He was not knifed in a coup by his own party. Indeed, even on Thursday, some Nationals sources believed Joyce probably still had the numbers (whether they would have held in a spill is something else).

Joyce was brought down by his own behaviour, relentless media disclosures, and the reality that the government could not stand the damage being done to it.

Whatever he might say about being busy on other fronts, with the baby and all, discipline and quietness are not in Joyce’s nature. When he first entered the parliament as a Queensland senator, he crossed the floor countless times and caused many headaches for the Nationals’ leadership.

It would be surprising if, as a backbencher in the lower house, he keeps his opinions to himself, even if he eschews floor-crossing, given the government’s tight numbers.

It’s premature to judge how damaged Joyce is as a campaigner in regional Australia. Initial opinion polls are a limited guide. If it turns out he still has cache as a retail politician, it will be interesting to see how extensively the Nationals, under their new leader, choose to use him in the next election campaign.

At a human level, Joyce is the story of an unlikely rise and a self-inflicted fall.

Joyce – who garnered international publicity when he threatened to euthanise Johnny Depp’s dogs – has always been a larger-than-life politician, a distinctive brand.

When he arrived in Canberra in 2005, no-one thought he’d ever lead the Nationals. He punched through, overcame setbacks, and remade himself while retaining the characteristics that led people to regard him as authentic.

But then his personal flaws and indulgences cost him all he’d worked and schemed for, as well as bringing grief to many close to him.

The ConversationIn other times and circumstances, Joyce might have skated through, little harmed by the scandal. But today the personal can quickly become the political – something Joyce failed to understand.

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.