Barnaby Joyce has had a reasonably long career in Parliament, now heading towards 15 years. His career is one which has had a number of very public setbacks, and he is generally dismissed by what he would call the 'inner city elites'. He remains popular, however, and always newsworthy. he appears to have the ability to 'bounce back'.
Many outstanding politicians are remembered for doing something special for their country, or perhaps for a lifetime of sustained effort for the country’s benefit. Barnaby Joyce was named “Australia’s best retail politician” by Tony Abbott. Now that endorsement does muddy the waters somewhat, but a reference from a former Prime Minister is still a reference.
He has also ‘served’ as Deputy Prime Minister of the country, which in itself is an achievement. It also illustrates the point that our system elevates the leaders of political parties to positions that are sometimes beyond their capabilities. It is arguable as to whether Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce are two such examples, but it also points to the problem of having a junior coalition partner. The leader of the National Party automatically becomes Deputy PM if the coalition is in power. This is problematic if the person in the role is, for any number of reasons, not a good fit.
These reasons might range from ongoing scandals to a lack of suitable 'gravitas' The expectation of a Deputy PM would be that he is an acceptable stand-in for the Prime Minister, should the Prime Minister be overseas, or ill, or even deceased.
Resignation and return to the back bench
In February 2018 Malcolm Turnbull was scheduled to go to the U.S. and he flagged that Mr Joyce would be acting Prime Minister in his absence. Unfortunately Mr Joyce was at that time embroiled in a personal crisis, which included the very public end of his marriage. Mr Turnbull, in what amounted to an expression of no-confidence in his deputy, appointed someone else to stand in for him. Barnaby Joyce was sent on a week's leave.
Obviously that was an uncomfortable set of circumstances, and within a week Mr Joyce resigned from the leadership of the National Party, and consequently lost his position as Deputy Prime Minister.
A look at his 'annus horribilis'
It would not be unreasonable to expect that Mr Joyce might have called time on his career at that time, as his personal and political reputations were at an all-time low. But no, he had several more struggles to contend with.
There was that television interview, for which he was paid $150,000. There was talk that it was against the rules for Parliamentarians to take remuneration for appearing in the media, but that appeared to be incorrect. It is a convention, which is not binding, and so moot.
Joyce and Ms Campion arranged that lawyers were to establish a trust fund for their son, Sebastian, to set aside the $150,000 to pay for future expenses like school fees. Apparently the payment was to be made into a family trust, which is also a way to avoid a significant tax bill.
His next mis-step was when he made the extraordinary claim that he might not be the expected baby's father. He framed it as a 'grey area’ which surely failed on every measure of chivalry, if such a thing still exists.
The next bombshell in the 'annus horribilis' for Mr Joyce was that he was found to be a dual New Zealand and Australian citizen. Under S44 of the Constitution, he was obliged to resign from Parliament, and to re-contest his seat. He won the by-election, against low profile candidates, but nevertheless he improved his margin.
As if that was not enough he was next found to be living, at no expense, in a friend's apartment in Armidale. He declared the 'gift' of free rental, but again he was pilloried by many in the Press. He even made the comment that he needed the assistance, because he was living on a reduced wage, of over $211,000 per annum. But he was supporting six children, and two households.