Barnaby Joyce announces resignation as Nationals leader, deputy PM

By @chelean on
Barnaby Joyce
Australian Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce looks at Australian beef as he visits at a supermarket to promote Australian products in Tokyo, Japan, November 16, 2015. Reuters/Issei Kato

Barnaby Joyce has just resigned from his position as deputy prime minister and leader of the Nationals. Amid pressure from his own party, the member for New England said on Friday that he would remain in the seat but would move to the backbench.

His announcement came following mounting pressure from the Nationals and the growing distrust of the voting public. Joyce was besieged with scandals recently, including the revelation that he and former staffer Vikki Campion were expecting a son together, as well as the new sexual harassment allegation against him, which he strongly denies.

“I will continue to fight for the people in the weatherboard and iron, for the people on the peripheral and the small regional towns. I used my experience of these towns and my goal in life will always be to try to make their lives better,” he wrote on Twitter.

His resignation will be effective on Feb. 26. The Nationals will discuss their leader’s exit at a party room meeting on the same day when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull returns from his US tour.

Joyce’s affair with Campion, who is now his partner, spearheaded his downfall. The revelation had Turnbull ordering a new ban on ministers from having sexual relations with their staff. Joyce was adamant he did not break any rules and had refused to resign. He has since changed his mind about resigning.

There was also the allegation that he cost taxpayers $372 per night to sleep away from his family home for months. He and estranged wife Natalie Abberfield announced their separation in December. They have four daughters together.

Joyce also faces sexual harassment claims, which he said were untrue and defamatory. He has asked that the allegations be referred to the police. The allegation, he told the press on Friday, was the “straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

Joyce, with his fifth child on the way, will have a pay cut of around 50 percent. As SBS notes, he will also lose his position as Infrastructure and Transport minister upon his move to the backbench. His salary of more than $400,000 will be cut to around $200,000.

Meanwhile, Nationals MPs David Gillespie and Michael McCormack have expressed their desire to challenge for Joyce’s position in the party.