A recording has emerged of embattled deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce arguing that politicians embroiled in scandals should stand aside.
Joyce is refusing to resign or step aside from his ministerial duties despite the issue of his affair dominating the news agenda more than two weeks. He has gone on personal leave for a week, but has given multiple media interviews and yesterday turned up to a National Party event in his electorate.
Joyce told Fairfax News this week that people were starting to view the scandal as a "witch hunt" and he vowed he was "not going anywhere".
However, it wasn't too long ago that the deputy PM was saying standing aside was the right thing to do.
Back in September 2016, when former Labor senator Sam Dastyari's Chinese donor scandal popped up for the first time, Joyce said during a press conference in Armidale that Dastyari should step down from his shadow ministry positions while there were questions around the scandal.
"When similar things happen to us, you know, with Stuart Robert [accepted a watch from a Chinese company], he was stood aside," Joyce said. "He had to step down. That was over a watch."
"When other similar issues happened with Mal Brough [stood aside over a police inquiry into a diary], he was stood aside. When it happened with Arthur Sinodinos, even though later on he was cleared, for the interim, he was stood aside."
Joyce has recently faced questions over accepting six months free accommodation from a millionaire property owner in his electorate. The free rent has been estimated to be worth $12,000. Joyce declared the accommodation but said he didn't need to because the businessman, Greg Maguire, is a close friend.
In the 2016 press conference, Joyce argued that donations to political parties are not the same as those made to individuals because political parties are audited.
"If you just hand a cheque straight to an individual, what is the requirements for that individual?" he said.
"It's got to go through an auditable form – and auditable path," he said. "Why did someone, just out of the blue, ask for money, and why did that person, out of the blue, just decide to pay it?
"It doesn't stack up at all."
Last week, Joyce said Maguire approached him to offer the free rent for six months, and Joyce offered to pay it but Maguire refused to accept any money. News Corp journalists who first reported the story said Maguire has said Joyce in fact approached him.
Maguire is the owner of the Quality Hotel Powerhouse in Armidale, where Joyce has held events at in the past. In a 2015 press release, Joyce mentions the hotel as a location for a consultation session.
Joyce also took the German agriculture minister to the hotel for dinner in 2016.
Labor has signalled that they will continue to pursue Joyce over the matter, as well as the jobs in ministerial offices filled by Joyce's now-pregnant partner Vikki Campion after she left his office. Public officials and ministers will likely be grilled about it during Senate Estimates next week, and Joyce was expected to face questions in Question Time when he returns from leave.
BuzzFeed News sought comment from Joyce but did not receive a response. In an interview in Fairfax on Thursday, Joyce said he and Campion would be moving out of the Armidale apartment soon due to all the media attention, and called on the media to move on.
Josh Taylor is a Senior Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Josh Taylor at email@example.com.
Kate Doak is a freelance investigative journalist and communications professional, who is based in Sydney, Australia
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