Shortcuts / 23 June 2021

The Life and Times of Barnaby Joyce

It’s déjà vu all over again… Barnaby Joyce has been elected Leader of the Nationals this week which makes him Australia’s deputy prime minister for the second time. He’s one of the nation’s most recognisable politicians for all sorts of reasons. So in this edition of Squiz Shortcuts, we take you through where it all started for Barnaby Joyce, his political rise and fall… and rise again, and what his resurrection means for the Morrison Government.

Let’s start at the beginning…
Barnaby Joyce was born in 1967 in Tamworth, NSW, which makes him 54yo for those counting. He’s one of 6 kids, he grew up on a sheep/cattle property and attended boarding school at Sydney’s St Ignatius Riverview. 

I’m glad we’ve got the ‘where’d you go to school’ bit out of the way…
If you liked that, how about where he went to uni? It was the University of New England in Armidale where he studied finance. 

Any romance there?
You know what, there was. Joyce met Natalie Abberfield at uni, and they married in 1993. They have 4 daughters. 

And how did he earn a crust pre-politics?
He became an accountant and spent some time in the corporate arena, before starting his own business creatively named Barnaby Joyce and Co. That was in St George in Western Queensland. 

So when did he first pop up in the political arena?
In 2005. Joyce became a Senator for Queensland as a member of the Nationals. And it didn’t take long for Joyce to be noticed in Canberra. 

How so?
Well, he was pretty outspoken. During his time in the Senate, Joyce crossed the floor 28 times, meaning he voted against his own side. He says he did it on issues where he believed the Coalition weren’t acting in the best interests of regional Queenslanders. According to Joyce, this made him “both hero and villain”. 

And the stunts?
So many stunts… Like the time he turned up to Parliament House riding a tractor to promote Australian produce…

And taking on Johnny Depp?

That came a bit later when Joyce was the Agriculture Minister. But now that we’re here, Depp referred to Joyce as “inbred with a tomato”. Charming… That’s because Joyce reprimanded Depp and his then-wife Amber Heard for smuggling their two Yorkshire terriers Pistol and Boo into Australia. He told the couple it was “time that Pistol and Boo buggered off back to the United States”. In a viral video, the couple apologised in a rather unique way. 

So, how did he become Deputy PM?
In 2013, Barnaby Joyce resigned from the Senate to run for a seat in the House of Representatives – a move to get him closer to the political action. He was elected in the seat of New England covering his old stomping ground in New South Wales. 

Wasn’t Tony Windsor the member there?
You’ve got a good memory. New England was held by Tony Windsor for 12 years before Joyce was elected. Windsor was an independent MP. 

Remind me why I know his name…
Along with Rob Oakeshott, Windsor delivered government to the Gillard-led Labor Party in the 2010 hung parliament negotiation. 

That’s right… So did Joyce beat him?
Not in 2013 – Windsor didn’t run due to health reasons. But Windsor did run against Joyce in 2016, and Joyce won convincingly. 

When did Joyce become Leader of the Nationals?
Just before the 2016 election when long-time leader Warren Trust stepped down before his retirement. Following the Coalition’s win at the 2016 election, Malcolm Turnbull as PM and Barnaby Joyce as Deputy PM were returned to Government. 

Happy days for them…
Sure. Until the 2017 Parliament eligibility crisis… You remember the one – several parliamentarians were questioned about their eligibility to be MPs and senators due to citizenship issues. 

Oh yeah, that’s right. And Joyce was one of them…
It’s all coming back, right? It turned out the Aussie country boy might also have been a Kiwi. Joyce was by far the most senior politician caught up in the drama. Joyce said he was shocked by the revelation and immediately started the process of renouncing his claim to Kiwi citizenship. 

So, what happened next?
Joyce continued to sit in Parliament and exercise his executive duties, which was pretty controversial. For a hot second, Tony Windsor even suggested he might have another go at New England if there was a by-election. There was, but in the end, Joyce was reelected with an attention-grabbing swing towards him. 

Ok, so now it’s happy days?
Not quite. Just after the by-election, Joyce announced a split from his wife Natalie.  Then, in early February 2018, the Daily Telegraph ran a front-page story reporting that Joyce was expecting a child with his former media advisor Vicki Campion.  

How was that received?
Look, there were some issues…

I’d reckon!
Yep. Joyce was condemned by those from all sides of politics, including his own party. 

To be clear, what was their issue with the state of his private life?
The problem wasn’t the start of a new relationship, but that Campion was his staff member. It sparked lots of questions about whether Joyce had breached ministerial standards and whether taxpayer money had been appropriately used, like when they had work trips together. That sort of thing. 

And then PM Malcolm Turnbull was pretty annoyed, I remember…
Yep, and this led to the infamous ‘bonk ban’ which reworded the code of conduct to expressly prohibit sexual relationships between ministers and their staff. 

So he resigned over that?
No. In late February 2018, the Nationals received a formal complaint alleging Joyce sexually harassed a Western Australian woman. Joyce has repeatedly denied the allegations. The Nationals undertook an investigation and were unable to confirm the claims. But it ended up being the last straw – Joyce resigned from the leadership of his party and his ministerial duties.   

And now 3 years later…
Yep, here we are again… On Monday, he toppled Michael McCormack, a Wagga MP,  to return to the top spot.  

What does this mean for the Coalition?
Australia is due for an election in the next year and the topic on everyone’s lips is  climate policy. As Deputy PM, Joyce will have a seat at the big table and he has made it clear that he will resist any climate policy that makes it harder for farmers, miners or the economic development of regional areas. He did that to great effect with the so-called carbon taxes in the past. 

And why’s that’s a pretty big deal?
It’s this sort of political maneuvering that has seen Prime Ministers lose their jobs in the past, such is the trickiness of the issue.  

Why is climate change such a big topic?
Australia is facing increasing pressure globally to adopt more ambitious carbon emissions reduction policies. It was a big agenda item at the recent G7 meeting, and there is a big climate summit in Glasgow later this year. At a minimum, countries are expected to agree to net zero emissions by 2050. 

And where does the Coalition sit on net zero emissions by 2050?
In the past couple of months, the Morrison Government has been slowly creeping towards it. The current position is that we should aim for zero emissions as soon as possible, and preferably by 2050.  

So what’s the problem?
Several senior National figures aren’t keen on it. Even former leader Michael McCormack spoke out about it, but it wasn’t enough to save him. 

And that means?
It looks like it could be a rocky road ahead for the Coalition as they try to navigate this important and difficult issue. 

So, what’s next?
Joyce has promised to be a loud voice for regional Australia. With the election coming up his voice will be loudly ringing in Scott Morrison’s ears. And that is likely to be challenging at times.

And it’s smooth sailing from here for Joyce?
Umm, who knows… With the colour Joyce brings to politics it’s likely we are in for some twists and turns, so strap yourself in.


Squiz recommends:

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s apology for bringing Pistol and Boo into Oz. It’s so scripted, so disingenuous and absolutely hilarious – it’s a must-watch.  

The Midsomer Murders series. We always get a kick out of the fact that the wife of Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby is called Joyce Barnaby…

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