Joyce & Public Interest


In my Commentary yesterday I suggested that various aspects of Joyce’s “affair” with staffer Vicki Campion were of public interest and not simply a “private” matter, as Joyce (and some other Coalition Ministers) had suggested. Today’s media has now woken up to the public interest (some journalists apparently knew about the affair some months ago) and have written about it, albeit in mostly soft tones. But Andrew Bolt identifies a number of questions which require answers (see Joyce’s Affair is of Public Interest), viz

WHY was Campion moved out of Joyce’s office last year? Was it, as the ABC reports, after Turnbull’s intervention?

WHY was Campion then hired as social and digital adviser to Nationals minister Matt Canavan — a job created for her? Was that job advertised, and were any other candidates considered for this position, paid for by taxpayers to the tune of up to $191,000?

WHY, after Canavan resigned as a minister, was Campion then hired as a media officer by another Nationals MP, Damian Drum, when he already had one? Why was Drum’s staff allocation increased from six to seven to make room for her, and did Turnbull or his office approve it?

WHY have Freedom of Information requests from journalists asking about Campion’s taxpayer-funded travel expenses been refused?

DID Joyce sack Nationals minister Darren Chester for — as was widely claimed — privately criticising his affair?

WAS Canavan’s surprisingly bad vote in the ballot for deputy Nationals leader in part a payback by Nationals MPs for having sheltered Joyce’s lover?

HOW much was Joyce’s poor performance and judgment last year affected by the affair?

While Joyce got a lot of questions today in Parliament, none of them appeared to relate to the above questions. However, a spokesman for Turnbull told a journalist  that rules forbidding the employment of “family and partners” in a member’s office did not apply to Campion as she was not a “partner” to Joyce at the time she was employed by other ministers! And although  Labor gave Joyce a number of questions, it played down the affair issue and its possible implications.

However, unless satisfactory “explanations” are given, it is difficult to see how Turnbull could have Joyce as a “lame duck” Deputy PM who becomes PM when Turnbull travels overseas, which he is scheduled to do next week and in respect of which Turnbull told Parliament that Joyce will be Acting PM.  The problems which have emerged inside the National Party and which relate to the affair also suggest he will have to relinquish the leadership of the National Party and that of course also applies if he loses his position as Deputy PM. Turnbull, who seems to have known about the situation for some time (but is acting as though he didn’t), may able to retain Joyce as a junior Minister. Whatever, this is a set-back for the Coalition.

Turnbull’s now obvious involvement in the cover up of the affair also means that his leadership gets another black mark. And it appears that yet another may result from his presidency of the meeting over the week-end of the NSW branch of the Liberal Party. Attempts by Tony Abbott to give all members a vote on pre-selections for NSW and federal seats failed when it was decided that only 90 per cent of “ordinary” members should have a vote, with the other 10 per cent coming from state council and state executives (see Pre-selection Votes for NSW Liberal Party). Reports suggest that Turnbull handled the meeting poorly.

Turnbull’s Enemies

Political leaders usually have no difficulty in identifying their enemies. But Turnbull may have more than usual. Bond reports that his refusal to re-appoint Janet Albrechsten to the Museum Board was accompanied by the comment that  ‘Well, I can’t possibly — why would I reappoint her? She is an enemy of mine’(see Turnbull Refuses to Re-Appoint Albrechsten). Albrechsten herself also reports that, back in 2002, Turnbull rang her as a friend to report an insult made by Latham in Parliament (see Albrechsten Story). One minute a friend, the next …

Climate Policy and the Barrier Reef 

Since the end of the summer break there has been no report on the development of the National Energy Guarantee which, we have been told, will provide a more affordable and reliable supply of energy.  I and others such as Alan Moran have previously suggested that the outline exposed so far has many defects. To add to that is the report that Garnaut, who was a key adviser to Labor’s Rudd and Gillard and who wrote two deficient reports arguing the need for government action to reduce carbon emissions, has been advising the Energy Security Board on how best to implement the NEG (see Garnaut Emerges Again). As the ESB is supposed to comprise “experts”, which Turnbull has claimed justifies the NEG, we now have another expert with the same view that we face supposed dangerous global warming unless government action is taken. Meantime, as a warm up, Garnaut is advising Nick Xenophon in the forthcoming South Australian election, where the Liberal party  so far seems to propose very little change in the existing climate/energy policy.

An outrageous development on climate policy is the attempt by the James Cook University in Townsville to gag research scientist Prof Ridd from expressing his view (even to his wife) that “the Great Barrier Reef is in fact in excellent condition. It certainly goes through periods of destruction where huge areas of coral are killed from hurricanes, starfish plagues and coral bleaching. However, it largely regrows within a decade to its former glory. Some parts of the southern reef, for example, have seen a tripling of coral in six years after they were devastated by a particularly severe cyclone”. Ridd, who has been helped financially through the IPA, now has to take legal action to allow him to express his views publicly (see Attempt to Gag Ridd on Barrier Reef). This gagging attempt should produce criticism from the PM – but we need a new one to get such a criticism from that quarter!

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