Backbench Barnaby: Joyce entered the House of Representatives and took up his seat on the backbench for Question Time in the House of Representatives today. Picture: Gary Ramage
Backbench Barnaby: Joyce entered the House of Representatives and took up his seat on the backbench for Question Time in the House of Representatives today. Picture: Gary Ramage

How Barnaby Joyce avoided investigation

BARNABY Joyce announced his resignation two days after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told him he had ordered an inquiry into whether he should stay a minister.

The short-lived probe was a sign that despite the assurances of his former deputy, Malcolm Turnbull had doubts about Mr Joyce's conduct.

The major investigation has been abandoned, but an audit of travel expenses involving Mr Joyce and his partner and former staffer Vikki Campion still is under way.

Joyce quit last Friday amid the fallout following revelations of his affair with former staffer and now pregnant partner Vikki Campion.

This morning, he was replaced as Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the National Party by Michael McCormack, and headed to the backbench.

 

Barnaby Joyce on the backbench for Question Time in the House of Representatives today. Picture: Gary Ramage
Barnaby Joyce on the backbench for Question Time in the House of Representatives today. Picture: Gary Ramage

The Government today confirmed the inquiry but insisted there was no link between it and a sexual harassment allegation made against Mr Joyce, who resigned as Deputy Prime Minister and National Party leader today.

That allegation was the reason Mr Joyce gave for standing down. But the inquiry was aimed at a possible breach of ministerial standards.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told a Senate committee today Mr Turnbull had not been aware of the sexual harassment claims when he ordered the probe.

The dates are intriguingly close: Mr Turnbull ordered the inquiry last Wednesday, February 21; Mr Joyce made his announcement on the Friday, February 23.

Vikki Campion and Barnaby Joyce. An audit of the use of travel and travel-related expenses by Mr Joyce and Ms Campion by the independent parliamentary expenses authority is ongoing. Picture: Supplied
Vikki Campion and Barnaby Joyce. An audit of the use of travel and travel-related expenses by Mr Joyce and Ms Campion by the independent parliamentary expenses authority is ongoing. Picture: Supplied

Mr Turnbull today confirmed to Parliament the inquiry was to have been conducted by the head of Prime Minister and Cabinet Martin Parkinson.

The order has now been cancelled, but an audit of Mr Joyce's travel spending will continue.

"The matter of compliance with ministerial standards is one I take very, very seriously," Mr Turnbull in response to a question from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

"The advice on ministerial standards is given to me by the secretary of my department, currently Dr Martin Parkinson …

"So I requested that he provide that advice on 21 February. There were constant claims that the member for New England (Mr Joyce) had been in breach of the statement of ministerial standards but no particulars were being given.

"I t was appropriate and I discussed it with the member for New England, then Deputy Prime Minister at the time, that this work would be undertaken and it was undertaken by the secretary."

Today, however, Dr Parkinson wrote to Mr Turnbull: "In light of Mr Joyce's decision to stand down from the ministry, there is little to gain by continuing the investigation.

"I note, however, that the audit into the use of travel and travel-related expenses by Mr Joyce and Ms Campion by the independent parliamentary expenses authority is ongoing."

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