Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, announced on Friday that he’ll resign as Nationals leader on Monday, but will stay in parliament, joining his former co-leader Tony Abbott, on the Coalition backbench.
Tellingly today, Joyce did not directly notify Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is currently in the US, of his decision, informing his Nationals colleagues and acting PM Mathias Cormann instead.
The pair had a spectacular public falling out last week after Turnbull said Joyce’s affair with a former staffer was “a shocking error of judgment” and Joyce responded saying the PM’s comments were “inept”.
Abbott has been involved in his own slanging match with his government colleagues this week after the former PM revived his call for a cut in immigration during a speech on Tuesday. Senior ministers, including treasurer Scott Morrison, Cormann and trade minister Steve Ciobo dismissed his views. An infuriated Abbott has been returning fire across the media ever since.
In an opinion piece in The Australian today, Abbott wrote about the government’s “failings” and said it should listen to him to find out “how it could lift its game”, while on radio, he channeled Joyce in saying the ministers were “inept” and “intemperate” in their response
“One thing I am not going to cop is gratuitous criticism from ministers who are only in government because I led them there,” he wrote.
“Ministers have gone out of their way to attack a colleague who knows more about winning elections than anyone in the parliament.”
Speaking to 2GB’s Ray Hadley, Abbott was indignant about their lack of deference to him.
“But for my efforts there wouldn’t be a government, but for my efforts in 2010 and 2013, Turnbull wouldn’t be prime minister and his ministers wouldn’t be in office. So I think they should listen with a degree of respect,” he told Hadley.
After Joyce announced his resignation today, Abbott took credit for Joyce’s rise, adding that the government under Turnbull only survived by the skin of its teeth thanks to the performance of the Nationals.
“Ever since I brought the previous maverick onto the frontbench in opposition, Barnaby has been a strong performer,” Abbott said.
But he also laid part of the blame at the feet of his colleagues in yet another attack on them.
“While he could have handled personal issues better, part of the problem has been poor management at the most senior levels of government,” Abbott wrote.
He originally wrote “compounded by leaking and self-promotion” but deleted it in a subsequent edit.
Today, Joyce said he “won’t snipe” from the backbench.
When Abbott departed as PM in 2016, he pledged “there will be no wrecking, no undermining, and no sniping” from the backbench.
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