Breaking News

Barnaby Joyce sold his reputation for $163,000 and he will never, ever get it back

Australia's former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has a reported A$150,000 from Channel 7 to have him and his newish partner, former staffer Vikki Campion, tell the world the story that not long ago they were insisting was a private matter.


OPINION: Barnaby Joyce used to rejoice in the title of Australia's best "retail" politician.

It was one of those insider political terms that meant he could sell his story to anyone from a barman to a baby's mum, because he talked easily to all he encountered - and he made it his business to encounter as many voters in as many environments as he could, from the street to the cattle saleyards to the RSL club.

His colleagues loved the Barnaby style. Got a problem in your electorate? Get Barnaby in and he'd have the local pub rocking in no time. Problem solved.


All by himself. Australia's former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce is now a lonely figure in Parliament.

But now Joyce's retailing himself for real. He's allowed the market to put a price on his story: a reported A$150,000 ($163,000) from broadcaster Channel 7 to have Joyce and his newish partner, former staffer Vikki Campion, tell the world the story that not long ago they were insisting was a private matter. Presumably one or the other will be dangling their baby, Sebastian, for the cameras, for the money is supposed to be going in a trust for Sebastian's future use.

Appallingly, Barnaby's now saying that he wouldn't have done it if he hadn't been pressured into it by the mother of his latest child.

Unsurprisingly, suddenly no one wants to know him.

"Remember there are other people in this interview, being Vikki and Seb, so if it was just an interview with me as a politician, sure, I am not going to charge for that," he asks us to believe.

"But that is not what they wanted, they wanted an interview obviously to get Vikki's side of the story and like most mothers she said: 'Seeing as I am being screwed over and there are drones and everything over my house in the last fortnight, paparazzi waiting for me, if everybody else is making money then (I am) going to make money out of it'."

So Barnaby, former deputy prime minister and determined gadabout, is painting himself as a poor sap unable to make his own decisions. Oh, dear.

The interview's ratings are, of course, just about guaranteed to be stratospheric.

A deputy prime minister, aged 50 and publicly devoted to wife and four daughters, suddenly falls for his 33-year-old staffer who gets pregnant. While awaiting the birth, Barnaby gives an interview in which he appears to throw doubt on whether or not he is actually the father. Meanwhile, he is busted to the backbench, and his prime minister declares himself so appalled by the whole thing he bans his ministers from any future sexual relationships with staffers.

Channel 7 undoubtedly figures A$150,000 is a bargain, and Channel 9, which was said to be flapping its chequebook around, too, would be cursing.

In TV land, the definition of retail politics is political scandal that sells.

And here is the real point about this whole vulgar shambles.

Politicians, who are pretty well compensated from the public purse for doing the jobs they are elected to do, surely have no business accepting further monetary compensation for undertaking extra-curricular activities that excite nothing more than the baser instincts of the happily scandalised.

It is true there is no rule or regulation that denies a backbencher the right to take money for appearing on a television show.

There was no actual regulation that prevented Bronwyn Bishop, the then-speaker of the House of Representatives, from taking a helicopter from Melbourne to a function in Geelong, either.

But that doesn't mean either of these examples of behaviour - and any amount of other political crash-and-burn stories - could be considered reasonable, as Bishop, for instance, finally discovered when her career collapsed around her.

Truth is, Barnaby Joyce might have been able to survive the turbulence surrounding his love life.

Once one of the country's most popular politicians, the former Nationals leader is now being publicly disowned by his own colleagues.

He is neither the first nor the last politician to be the subject of either fascination or loathing or both because of extramarital activities. Usually, the furore dies and the caravan moves on.

But Joyce, in accepting a big cheque for his personal scandal - and then blaming his partner for the decision - has lost his judgment to the point he is currently being publicly disowned by his colleagues, from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to fellow Nationals backbenchers.

There will be no coming back from it.

No amount of money will have been worth the reputation of a man who once was known as the country's leading retail politician.

*UPDATE: Barnaby Joyce has taken extended personal leave - effective immediately. He'll be on leave for 11 weeks, returning for the next Parliamentary sitting period in August. It was requested and granted by the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today. - via Sky News.
TONY WRIGHT

No comments