- Details of Joyce’s relationship with a former staffer emerged 16 days ago and sparked a growing crisis in the government
- Joyce had done his best to ride out the storm, but a “litany of allegations” against him continued to emerge.
- Joyce will remain as an MP and move to the backbench.
Nationals leader and Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, will resign on Monday.
The country’s 17th Deputy PM will step down when the party meets early on Monday morning after two years in the top job.
“This current cacophony of issues has to be put aside. and I think it’s my responsibility to do my bit to make sure that happens,” he said.
Joyce will stay on as the member for New England and go to the backbench. He was only re-elected, with an increased majority, in a by-election last December, after he was forced to resign from Parliament because he was a dual Australian-New Zealand citizen, in breach of the Constitution.
News of his relationship with his former staffer, Vikki Campion, who is now pregnant with his child, and the end of his 24-year marriage to Natalie Joyce, mother of his four children, were not reported during the election campaign, although it was believed to be an “open secret” in the electorate.
The MP said he wanted to provide “clear air”, saying the “litany of allegations” against him which have emerged in the last fortnight would defeat any government.
“I don’t believe any of them have been sustained,” he said.
Joyce said he’d notified acting PM Mathias Cormann about his decision.
Tellingly, it was not Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is currently in the US.
The previously harmonious relationship between Turnbull and Joyce broke down in spectacular public fashion last week after the PM announced a ban on sexual relationships between ministers and their staff and added that Joyce made “a shocking error of judgment” and “appalled us all” when he began an affair with a former staffer.
Last Friday Joyce returned fire saying Turnbull’s comments were “inept” and caused his family “further harm”.
This week, Joyce took personal leave from politics, but also staged a last ditch attempt to save his political career in media interviews, including inviting Fairfax Media to the controversial Armidale townhouse where he’s living rent-free with his now partner, courtesy of a millionaire supporter.
While he appealed for privacy, the outgoing Nationals leader has remained front page news all week, as a series of questions about his actions during 2017, when he was in an off-on relationship with Campion, his former media advisor.
Joyce argues he did not breach any ministerial codes because at the crucial moments involving the employment of his now partner, because they were not in a relationship when crucial decisions were made that saw her work for two other senior Nationals last year before going on stress leave.
But Joyce’s leadership has continued to be dogged with questions of potential breaches and conflicts of interest.
The outgoing leader had maintained until today he would not step down and had widespread support from his colleagues, but his actions were increasingly alienating sections of his party, with the Western Australian Nationals saying they’d lost his support, and yesterday, Victorian Nationals MP Andrew Broad calling on Joyce to resign.
Quote from the late Billy Graham “when wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost”… telling words for the Leadership of the National Party.
— Andrew Broad MP (@broad4mallee) February 21, 2018
Today sexual harassment allegations against Joyce from a Western Australian woman appeared in Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph.
That allegation saw another Nationals MP, Andrew Gee, say “all bets are off” and he withdrew his support.
Joyce has described the allegation as defamatory, denies them, and called for the matter to be referred to police.
He says that while there were rumours, “it was only in the last day or so I was made directly aware” of the allegation.
But it appears the latest claim, which appears to have leaked from onside his party, became the tipping point that led to his decision.
The ABC has reported that the woman concerned, a prominent regional leader, did not want to go public with her allegation, and did not go to police, but had raised the matter within the National Party.
Joyce referred to leaking and backgrounding as damaging the government’s prospects.
The Nationals MP said he hoped to provide a “circuit breaker” for his pregnant partner, and estranged wife.
“It’s incredibly important that there be a circuit-breaker, not just for the parliament, but more importantly, a circuit-breaker for Vikki, for my unborn child, my daughters and for Nat,” he said.
“This has got to stop. It’s not fair on them. It’s just completely and utterly unwarranted, the sort of observation that’s happened.”
Joyce says he “won’t snipe” from the backbench.
“I have a lot of things I need to do. I’m currently in the process of writing a book about precisely the people I was talking about and I want to make sure I get that concluded.
“I want to assist my colleagues where I can to keep their seats and also, quite naturally, in April, a baby will be born. I’ll have other things on my mind.”
The book he refers too is about his regional constituents “weatherboard and iron” houses (in his media conference today, the way Joyce says it sounded like “the weatherboard nine”).
Here’s Joyce following up his announcement on Twitter:
On Monday morning I will step down as the Leader of @The_Nationals and Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. I would like to thank everyone for offering their support to me, especially the people of New England.
— Barnaby Joyce (@Barnaby_Joyce) February 23, 2018
I will continue to fight for the people in the weatherboard and iron, for the people on the peripheral and the small regional towns. I used my experience of these towns and my goal in life will always be to try to make their lives better.
— Barnaby Joyce (@Barnaby_Joyce) February 23, 2018
Greens leader Richard di Natale says Joyce’s selfishness meant the issue dragged on a week longer than required.
“It comes far too late, Barnaby Joyce was dragged kicking and screaming to this decision when he should have made it immediately.”
The Prime Minister issued a statement on Joyce’s resignation:
The Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP has announced that he will resign as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, effective 8am on Monday.
I thank Barnaby for his service as Deputy Prime Minister and in his various Ministerial roles in which he has been a fierce advocate for rural and regional Australia.
The Coalition between the Liberals and the Nationals is Australia’s most successful political partnership, having endured for more than 95 years.
This partnership is undiminished and will continue to deliver opportunity and security for all Australians.
Pending the Nationals’ election of a new leader and consequent Ministerial changes, the Hon. John McVeigh MP will act as Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.
Barnaby Joyce, a former accountant educated as a boarder at the exclusive private secondary school, St Ignatius’ College, Riverview, in Sydney, his career in politics began in July 2005 as a Queensland senator, before he swapped houses and states in 2013 to become a NSW MP in order to further his ambition to become the Nationals leader, a goal he achieved in 2016.
Veterans Affairs Minister Michael McCormack appears to be the frontrunner to replace Joyce as Nationals leader.
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