Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce will take a week of personal leave next week from his $419,000 job as deputy prime minister, meaning he won’t be acting PM while Malcolm Turnbull is visiting the United States on a goodwill trip that includes a meeting with President Donald Trump in Washington.
Instead, Malcolm Turnbull has announced WA Liberal senator and finance minister Mathias Cormann will take on the job in the PM’s absence.
Last week, details emerged of Joyce’s affair with a former staffer, Vikki Campion, who is now seven months pregnant, sparking increased scrutiny of his parliamentary expenses.
The Nationals leader came under sustained attack in parliament today over a range of issues, including rent-free accommodation provided to the MP by a millionaire mate. And the Senate passed a motion, 35 votes to 29, for the deputy PM to resign for breaching ministerial standards. Labor, the Greens and crossbench senators combined to pass the motion, which also calls on the Nationals to sack their leader if he does not step down.
The motion cannot force Joyce’s resignation.
Debate over the motion took on a vengeful tone when Queensland Nationals senator Barry O’Sullivan used parliamentary privilege to allude to “office relationships” involving a Greens senator and Labor MP Tony Burke.
He also attacked Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young’s over her travel expenses, and a whale-watch trip that cost “thousands of dollars”.
“I’m asking Senator McKim: does he want to talk about office relationships and the conflicts that come with it while you’re a member of parliament?,” O’Sullivan said.
Joyce’s party deputy, Bridget McKenzie, was the only other senator to speak against the motion.
A push by some Nationals parliamentarians to encourage Joyce to leave office petered out yesterday, with McKenzie subsequently declaring it was a “rolled gold guarantee” that her leader would stay in the job, as Joyce pleaded for more time for the current controversies to blow over.
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