Barnaby Joyce flames out

Barnaby Joyce as National Party warrior and Deputy PM has flamed out, and to mix metaphors is politically washed up for now, perhaps forever. The one certainty is that his pay will be sliced by about $200k. However, there is no easy agreement as to what has really happened and what it all means.

Phillip Coorey in the AFR said it was the end of the Barnaby Joyce experiment and his exit shows politics has changed:

    Politics has changed. People used to survive much worse. Not any more.

He cites Sam Dastayari and Bob Hawke. Well, Dastayari didn’t survive, and generally speaking people did not know about what Bob Hawke was up to until his time was over.

Mark said on Facebook:

    Let’s be clear. The reason Joyce had to go was not “because he committed adultery”. What’s at stake here is hypocrisy, arrogance and malfeasance.

Paul Bongiorno in The Saturday Paper finds a better analogy in Keating’s attempt to support Carmen Lawrence, which failed after a year of bad headlines, and Julia Gillard taking two years to shed Craig Thompson. He tells the Joyce story well:

    More than enough has happened in the week since parliament previously sat to fan the flames first lit when The Daily Telegraph broke the story of Barnaby’s pregnant girlfriend, presenting him with a “Bundle of Joyce”. But what gave this story traction, beyond tabloid salaciousness, was the high-paid jobs offered to his new partner and the $400,000-a-year politician asking a rich mate to find him somewhere to live rent free in defiance of the ministerial code. Sure, Joyce told parliament businessman Greg Maguire made the offer unsolicited. The Australian and The Tele quoted Maguire telling them the opposite.

    The Joyce story is no media beat-up. It surfaced because the dysfunction and disruption in his office, caused by his affair, spilled out into the Nationals party room. Party sources confirm that Joyce’s performance as leader became more and more erratic. He refused to take advice and in the December reshuffle served notice that rivals and critics would not be tolerated.

In the end there was a complete breakdown of relations between the Turnbull and Joyce:

    In an interview with the Fairfax papers while he spent the week on leave, Joyce said his version of the private meeting with the prime minister last weekend was that he pulled Turnbull into line for publicly attacking him. Turnbull’s office later briefed out that the “warm and frank meeting” resolved nothing because Joyce “just doesn’t get it”.

What Joyce simply didn’t get, according to Turnbull, was that you can’t have sex with your staff. The other jiggery-pokery apparently was OK.

However, almost everyone except his fellow National Party politicians said he must go. There are 20 other than Joyce in the party room. Neither his supporters nor those who said he should step down had the majority. And the swing group plus most of his supporters said that if anything else came to light, he was gone.

Then last week we heard that a sexual harassment complaint had been made about him in confidence to the National Party. That turned out to be Catherine Marriott, a Shire of Broome councillor, a WA project manager with the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia and a former West Australian Rural Woman of the Year. It may not have been much, and possibly Joyce was too drunk to remember, but Ms Marriott is a highly credible person, unlikely to make a spurious complaint.

Finally, this sank Barnaby and Barnaby understood he was gone.

Dennis Shanahan says Barnaby Joyce was blind to a drama that was always going to end in tragedy (pay-walled):

    Barnaby Joyce has bowed to the inevitable but the pain for the ­Coalition, the Nationals and Malcolm Turnbull will continue from bleeding political wounds, fractured trust and poor judgment. The body politic, public discourse and social values have also undergone permanent change for the worse.

The last sentence probably overcooks things a bit, Joyce in the broad scheme of things is more symptom than cause. As I see it there are three main residual issues.

First, will Joyce keep his head down? Bongiorno says that some of Joyce’s party room supporters realised that to tip him out unwillingly would cause a ruckus bigger by far than Abbott could ever mount. Joyce says, no sniping, but by nature is not a quiet person so Turnbull must be worried. Chris Kenny, Associate Editor of the Oz, regrets that two of the best spokesmen for the right in politics are now on the back bench. In Kenny’s universe, Turnbull is too far to the left, almost indistinguishable from Bill Shorten, who, although right of centre, is a dangerous socialist.

We’ll have to wait and see how all that works out, but writing a book is what you do after your political career is over. If the book is interesting, it would hardly be a path back into the top position.

The second issue is the future of the Coalition Agreement, the document that gave Turnbull the top job, but gave Joyce virtually the power of veto. For decades the Nationals have disappointed many of their followers by not leveraging the power the Coalition gave them. Joyce was the first national leader to fully exploit that leverage.

The Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie says the Coalition agreement does not need renegotiation. However, Michael McCormack does not strike me as having the same force of personality.

The third, and I think the most important issue, is the impact of Turnbull’s changes to the Ministerial Code of Conduct.

At ABC RN’s The Minefield Scott Stevens put a cogent case in favour of Turnbull’s banning of sexual relations.

Michelle Grattan in a competent piece (as usual) says

    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.

No argument there, but Stevens absolves everyone other than Joyce of any responsibility at all. He says that in hierarchical workplaces where power is distributed unequally women are subject to immense injury and humiliation. They become casualties and are in no way complicit. Astonishingly, he says that women’s very survival in the workplace depends their cultivating on a sense of sexual availability. Here is a photo that was splashed on the front page of the Courier Mail. I googled and found it on a pay-walled Newscorp site, but it’s an AAP photo taken at a farmers conference in 2016:

Clearly Vikki Campion had choices as to how she presented herself. My personal opinion is that she could have toned down sexual attraction several notches without putting her career in danger. And I find it hard to think of her as a complete victim, without any agency.

James Massola of the SMH after interviewing the couple last week reported on the 7.30 Report that they are very much in love.

Nevertheless, Scott Stevens is right in thinking that interpersonal relations always have a sexual dimension and since women don’t generally wear burkas in our society it will be in the mix. Stevens says that Turnbull has “radically simplified” the issue in a way that attempts to take sexual relations out of ministerial offices, where in any case ministers should be outwardly focussed towards what they can do for the greater good.

Waleed Aly says he can see all that, but Turnbull’s injunction was the single most stupid and kack-handed action taken by a prime minister in recent times. In his opinion the decision is all very well, but is in effect not policeable except by the media, who now have a duty to interest themselves in the private lives of politicians, and to use all means possible including long-range telephoto lenses. In effect, at one stroke Malclom Turnbull has reconfigured the shape of political coverage by the media.

Stevens and Aly were joined by Paula McDonald, Professor of Work and Organisation, QUT, who wrote the Conversation piece Banning workplace romances won’t solve the problem of sexual misconduct in the office. She agreed with Aly, pointing out that such an action would have negative unintended consequences. She was also concerned about infantalising women. In this case what happened was clearly consensual, she said.

Stevens could see their argument, but still was inclined to hang out for politics as an exemplary place, where if anything standards should be higher than elsewhere.

Our politics is, I think, becoming fractious and broken. However, Barnaby Joyce is but one episode along the way. Turnbull’s action, however, may create real change for the worse.

30 thoughts on “Barnaby Joyce flames out”

  1. Turnbull’s action, however, may create real change for the worse.

    Given his history of political cack-handedness that’s hardly a surprise. Definitely one of the most incompetent PMs in my lifetime.

  2. Good summary of the political entertainment situation.

    Casualty List so far:
    1..Credibility of the whole news system in Australia. Even if they had told the gospel truth in full, from beginning to end, nobody can trust them ever again – and that probably includes the weather reports too. Suicidal arrogance.

    2.. Liberal Party. If this was a hare-brained plot to get rid of the Nationals so as to govern in their own right – then they have won the Organization section of the 2018 Darwin Awards hands down.

    3.. The Coalition government. Dead.

    4.. The A.L.P. Initially, they were prudent enough to stay right out of this mess, (apart from a bit of traditional name calling), and I think that might have gained them some support among a populace that has had a gutfull of political grandstanding and game-playing. But no. It couldn’t last. They just couldn’t help themselves – they just had to fling themselves into the screaming match and, in so doing, prove to everyone they were still unfit to run a chook-raffle, let alone a nation with serious challenges in a rapidly changing world.

    5.. Barnaby Joyce and those close to him.

    6.. The ordinary people of Australia.

    There are a couple of winners so far:

    (a).. The Puritans. Yes, they’re back with a vengeance. “We will tell you what to think – and don’t dare talk back!”)

    (b).. The Member for Dawson. Christenson’s outspoken dislike of Liberals and their failure to uphold conservative values has won him support. Wonder how much of this support is coming from former, and soon-to-be former, Liberals supporters too? He might soon be the only parliamentary winner out of this whole mess; I feel that in taking the stance he has, he has just re-elected himself.

  3. Graham, that could be right about Christenson. I didn’t hear how many votes he got, but suspect he was never a chance.

    However, from the SMH:

    Sources said Mr Littleproud, with just 18 months in the Parliament, was within a single vote of the leadership before deciding not to stand.

    The changeover has been costly, leaving bruised egos and prompting recriminations within the Nationals party room, where MPs loyal to Mr Joyce believe he was subject to a concerted effort to undermine him. Among the claims being made privately is a politically incendiary charge that Liberals up-to-and-including the Prime Minister’s office helped feed a news frenzy around the Nationals leader and that it was Liberals rather than Nationals who leaked news of a sexual misconduct claim against Mr Joyce.

    There has been speculation about who knew what when.

    Peta Credlin says that Turnbull’s office knew all along, which means that Turnbull knew too, although his department may have arranged plausible deniability, so there was no paper trail.

    Some say Turnbull had to act as he did because the Libs and Nats were bleeding women’s votes. It’s probably more than that, in large part because Turnbull’s mum shipped out when he was a young boy.

    He also poked Julie Bishop in the eye by preferring Cormann as acting PM. Any way they looked like a rabble.

  4. I’ve changed the title from Joyce wash up, which was the working title, to Barnaby Joyce flames out. Consequently the first line had to change.

    By way of explanation, the title and the first line act as a ‘hook’ especially for internet searches. I think it’s why the papers regularly have different titles in the print and online versions.

    Any way I was stuffed before dinner and couldn’t think of anything. So for better or for worse, what’s there now didn’t require any effort at all, it just popped into my head.

  5. Thanks for your efforts, Brian, and your info about article titles and search engines.

    I’m damned annoyed that Barnaby Joyce has been made a martyr; that was probably unintentional; “It seemed like a good idea at the time ….”. He doesn’t deserve it but that’s what has come out of this fools’ circus.

    The back-room boys have learnt nothing from the double-crossing, the fall and the rise of Pauline Hanson.

    As for all of his crimes: if every other parliamentarian were properly audited – and called to account for any discrepancies – and their personal behaviour given similar news scrutiny, the bankruptcy court and the jails would be very busy indeed.

    Even sacking Turnbull at this late stage won’t save the necks of the Liberals; it’s impossible to unscramble eggs.

  6. As Brian points out, Barnaby now drops to around $195,000 pa.
    I don’t know if super and entitlements are on top of that. But it is still a good screw.
    Ms Campion, according to The Australian was doing quite well too. After a spell on stress leave she has now been made redundant, probably attracting some fiscal payment. Had she stayed she may have taken maternity leave. She left, as suggested in the article, as a senior advisor. Their pay approaches $190,000, so the payout would be a bunch. I don’t know how deep the well goes.
    So Barnaby and his new partner will still be able to carve out a reasonable life for them selves. That’s OK, albeit somewhat at public expense.
    Barnaby was recently re-elected, at public expense and because he failed to take the reasonable step of ensuring his eligibility for Office. Let’s see if he bails out and forces another election in his seat. Inequality anyone?

  7. Geoff, I read somewhere that Campion was on about $130,000 originally and went to $139,000 when she went to Canavan. Not as much as reported earlier, but plenty to get by on.

    That’s from memory, but thereabouts.

    Joyce says this morning that he’s just going to do his job (local member) and see how things work out. He says he doesn’t expect to get a second go at the top job.

    I think his country constituents may work out that he was a very loose cannon, quite irrational and may not have always acted in their best interests. One was heard to say that it will be a change to have someone from the Riverina who understands irrigation.

    BTW the new bloke is a garden variety climate denier.

  8. Brian (Re: FEBRUARY 27, 2018 AT 9:35 AM):

    BTW the new bloke is a garden variety climate denier.

    Is there a comprehensive list of climate denying pollies, and examples/evidence of public statements made by these people? Do we know where our parliamentary representatives stand on this critical issue? Have any switched positions lately?

    Perhaps this is a subject for a post?

  9. Brian, 26th, 10.29pm.

    Yes. Apparently Mr Turnbull’s Dept head Martin Parkinson was asked on Wednesday 21st to audit BJs expenses. But after BJ announced he would be resigning, Mr Parkinson told the PM there didn’t seem to be any point. Audit abandoned.

    So, was the audit just another way of pressuring BJ, or was it devised to check whether suspicions of misuse of travel expenses to show Vikki a good time, were well founded?

    In the Waleed Aly piece I saw in Fairfax, Mr Aly seemed to ignore utterly that boss/subordinate affairs might be tricky for an organisation. Has he not been reading the daily Press in Australia over the last few years?? You don’t have to have suffered a broken marriage yourself, to understand the risks.

    Why, Walid, do you think sexual relations between (say, just as an example) University lecturers and their students are either prohibited; or the lecturer has to declare the affair and then have nothing to do with that student’s assessment?

    Corruption, bias, blackmail, …. c’mon Waleed, use your imagination!! We’re dealing with very strong emotions here.

  10. Ambi: The no bonking rule is just another example of how some employers are more and more expecting the public and private lives of their employees to belong to the employer.
    This doesn’t mean that I approve of CEO’s who work their way through the personal assistant pool but I do think that the system has to allow that genuine relationships can develop.
    Companies should accept that relationships can develop, offer guidelines re is expected at work as well as mechanisms that allow people to be excused from being involved in decisions for which there is a conflict of interests. (The excuse mechanism should be designed so that it is not obvious what the reason is or who the reason is.)

  11. Yes John

    Genuine relationships can develop: timing is all.

    Staff member, after she has left the office.
    High school student, after he has finished Year 12.
    Uni student, after she has left the class(es) run by the lecturer or tutor.

    If it’s genuine, they won’t mind waiting.

  12. Ambi:

    If it’s genuine, they won’t mind waiting.

    My recollection of the long ago would be that if someone is willing to wait before even starting the relationship they wouldn’t have been all that committed. True love and all that stuff is not about cool hard calculation.
    Someone should ask Turnbull what he would have done if he and Lucy had been in a work relationship when they started to be attracted that banned a liaison between them.

  13. John

    Nostalgia is a wonderful gift to the ‘senior citizen’….


    PS I don’t mean to dismiss the very serious questions you have raised. It’s just that BJ, always the media darling and limelight fancier, has now found himself well and truly hoist on his own petard.

    Some might see karma.

    I see only Kama Sutra.
    Everything is literary if you look widely enough.


  14. Well, Turnbull can go f**k himself.
    I run a husband and wife company ( well, each of us run certain bits )
    Getting to throw the old leg over is hard enough without him gobbing off about it !

  15. Mr J

    With all due sympathies for your “difficulty”, I don’t think a husband and wife company was what the PM had in mind.

    I think he was referring solely (and soulfully) to
    *Ministers in Canberra
    * and their staff.

    He had no cause to comment on, nor interfere with, your corporate and marital affairs matters.

    Apologies to Mrs J, if my comments are deemed offensive or intrusive. I just hope that she never reads the blog.

    Too busy, no doubt.

    Good luck, Mr And Mrs J.

    {little Ambi with his Cupid’s arrow, fluttering about in the warm glow of marital life}

  16. Great song, Jumpy.

    For those who came in late, or have forgotten, Jumpy used the full moniker at LP, but I called him Jumpy for convenience and he adopted it.

    John, I know a couple who were older when they got married but waited years, probably decades for her mum to die before marrying.

    I think there was something in the code about lines of reporting. The real problem was that they solution (creating another job just for Campion) may have conformed with the rules, but didn’t conform with public expectations.

  17. pssssssssssssst!
    didja hear about ……………

    Minister Michaelia has impressed me as a very combative Minister of the Crown.

    Yesterday she Crowned her career.

    Down here in class-conscious Queen Victoria Land, we have a phrase:
    cashed-up bogan.

    What one saw in Canberra yesterday was, rather, a
    boganned-up Cash.

    heavenstobetsy somebody please bring the smelling salts, toute suite !!!

  18. Yes, John,

    Individually they are quite nice, but we snobs can only maintain our attitude by denigrating whole groups of folk and designating them by an insulting nickname.

    It is a tradition we simply must preserve at all costs.

    I need not Iist the categories of persons we sneer at; I imagine you went to a decent school, and were taught at least the rudiments of social snobbery as a young fellow.

    Nonetheless the Minister you have mentioned is quite clearly in a Class of Her Own.

    With best wishes,

    Le Conte de Boganville,
    Chateau Bunyip,
    L’Isle de Boganville

  19. Mr Barnaby has now jumped a school of sharks by declaring that paternity is a grey area but he won’t be taking a test.

    You couldn’t make this stuff up.

    Apparently, as of this evening, Newspoll has a drop in Mr Turnbull’s score as “preferred Prime Minister”.

    You couldn’t make this stuff-up up.

  20. Ambi Barnaby could be just messing with us. IVF can allow pregnancy whilst the couple are far apart geographically.

  21. According to one news outlet, some MPs are starting to wonder about his emotional state.

    Perhaps it would have been better for him if he had actually taken a week off to reflect, after the PM announced that Barnaby would be doing that??

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