Despite senior Nationals reportedly pushing for Barnaby Joyce to leave parliament, the defiant former deputy prime minister has said he plans to re-contest his federal seat of New England at the next election.
Media outlets including The Australian reported that there was pressure on Joyce from within the Nationals to stand down after comments he made during a tell-all interview with Sunday Night. During the interview, Joyce described other National MPs as the “scum of the earth” for allegedly encouraging his partner Vikki Campion to abort his baby, which was conceived during a clandestine affair between the politician and his media adviser.
Joyce also told Sunday Night that he wasn’t bothered by the political fallout his relationship with Campion had caused, and even admitted that he only tried to hold onto the deputy prime ministership and leadership of the nationals out of “spite”. “To be frank, I don’t give a sh** about the political ramifications,” he said.
Following the incendiary interview and the clear rift it had highlighted between Joyce and members of his own party, The Australian reported that “the growing view of senior party members was that [Joyce] should leave parliament”.
Fellow Nationals MP Ken Dowd said, meanwhile, to Sky News that he had no knowledge of the claims made by Joyce and Campion but hinted that the serious allegations made during the Sunday Night interview about members of the party could make it difficult for Nationals to continue to function smoothly.
“His private life is his private life, I won’t go there, but for the National Party, we’ve always been a well-knitted team, a good family team we like to call ourselves, and this has been the history of the Nats for many many years,” Dowd said. “If we’ve got a few issues, which it looks like we have with Barnaby accusing about five of the Nats of betraying him, I think that should be sorted out behind closed doors so we can remain properly focused on what we’re here to do.
Joyce said today, however, that not only would he not be stepping down, but that he would re-contest his seat at the next election. “Of course I am running again, the first people I would tell if I wasn’t would be the electorate,” Mr Joyce told the media. “I’m still working for New England, I’m having meetings in the electorate today.”
With regard to the allegations that Campion was pressured by “conservatives” within the National Party to abort baby Sebastian Joyce, neither Joyce nor Campion named names during the Channel 7 interview.
But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters on Monday he wasn’t aware of anyone within the National Party, which governs in coalition with his own Liberal Party, telling Campion to have an abortion. And Nationals MP Darren Chester told Sky News an investigation by the National Party was not required.
“These allegations have been made quite vaguely about who may have made these comments,” Chester said. “The individuals concerned would know if they’ve made inappropriate comments and the couple, Ms Campion and Barnaby Joyce, would know who they were and should deal with those matters privately.
“It’s not something I have any knowledge of whatsoever and quite frankly, I think the Australian public would feel uncomfortable seeing this sort of details of peoples’ private lives aired in the ways they were.”
Despite being out and about in his electorate, Joyce is still officially on leave for health reasons until June 15. The couple said that the $150,000 they were reportedly paid for the controversial Sunday Night interview would be kept in a trust fund for Sebastian.