Politics Analysis

Why Barnaby's drunken planter tumble – and other mad acts – matter

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Member for New England Barnaby Joyce in Parliament in 2019 (Screenshot via YouTube | adapted by Dan Jensen)

After Barnaby Joyce MP was filmed sprawled on his back on a Canberra footpath, managing editor Michelle Pini explains why Australian voters should indeed take a dim view of his persistently chaotic behaviour. 

WE MAY BE INCLINED to agree with Nine’s Jenna Price and 'feel sorry for Barnaby'  were it not for a few, okay, many niggling concerns.

Firstly, yes, Member for New England Barnaby Joyce is hardly the first person to get blind drunk at some point — though we would wager most of us don’t fall off planter boxes and lie on the ground in a busy capital city street, screaming profanities into our mobiles. At least, not usually beyond our schoolies' celebrations.

Still, let’s not be sanctimonious about people getting drunk. Perhaps many of us can relate to being in a situation where our control mechanisms have left the building — and also possibly vacated our limbs. Because, no doubt, if similar footage of any other employees or members of parliament – even if they were people of colour or women, for instance – were to appear on social media, surely their bosses and any media onlookers would understand and feel sorry for them, also, such that there would be no consequences?

Secondly, as Jenna points out, ‘like the rest of us, Barnaby Joyce doesn’t read the side effects pamphlet [on prescription drugs]'.

Indeed, as others in the mainstream media have opined, Barnaby has apologised (kind of) so, no harm no foul. Right?

Nationals Leader David Littleproud yesterday (14 February) confirmed on the Sunrise program that both he and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton have "strongly encouraged" Barnaby to"take personal leave", in order to get his affairs in order. Littleproud explained that Barnaby was experiencing “distressing” issues in his personal life and that the Member for New England would then be “welcomed back” into the fold.

Who wouldn’t feel sorry for the poor former Deputy PM?

Let’s give Barnaby the benefit of the doubt (yet again), say the "friendly" media, and look beyond the many, many times he has stumbled into parliament, puce-faced, literally fallen asleep on the job and/or ranted incoherently in the Chamber, on social media or on national television.

After all, Coalition leaders and their mates in One Nation, and everyone in the media felt sorry for Indigenous Senator Lidia Thorpe, for example, when she was filmed, not even inebriated or yelling profanities but simply on her hands and knees, after being thrown to the ground by police while protesting a Far-Right anti-transgender rally.

Here are a few headlines from the usual forgiving publications on that occasion:

‘"She should be embarrassed": Peter Dutton slams Lidia Thorpe’s behaviour at let women speak event', news.com.au

‘Choatic [sic] footage emerges of Senator Lidia Thorpe crawling across wet grass outside Parliament following altercation with police’ ~ Sky News

‘Senator Lidia Thorpe clashes with police at anti-trans rally’ ~ Sydney Morning Herald

And our personal favourite:

‘Pathetic from a Senator: Pauline Hanson slams Lidia Thorpe’ ~ Sky News

Inexplicably, Barnaby Joyce's many rorts and escapades, unlike Thorpe's, are quickly forgiven and forgotten. 

Which is why we'd like to remind everyone of a few earlier Joyce imbroglios.


Barnaby was stripped of his role as Deputy PM in 2018 after it (eventually) became known that he had a pregnant mistress who also happened to be his staffer. Then PM Malcolm Turnbull had a special clause inserted into the Ministerial Code of Conduct to deal with sexual indiscretions in the parliamentary workplace, known as the “Bonk Ban”.

Joyce had also actively campaigned against marriage equality, claiming it would devalue the “sanctity of marriage”. And then, while still within the sanctity of his marriage to someone else, proceeded to continue the affair and have two children with his mistress.

Barnaby even publicly suggested his partner, Vikki Campion, the one with whom he had an extra-marital affair, should still be allowed to work in his office.


As IA reported earlier,

Who hasn’t been drunk at a Canberra pub following the Rural Women’s Awards (!) and then, when accused of being drunk, reacted by physically accosting random strangers and pinching their bums?


There are also allegations of sexual harassment from businesswoman and 2012 Rural Woman of the Year, Catherine Marriott. And there have been other allegations of Barnaby's sexual impropriety swirling around for years.


As we also reported earlier, among his many crimes against the environment, Joyce signed off on unsecured water purchases known as “ghost water” transactions at inflated prices, which provided huge profits to large irrigators, such as agribusiness big irrigator and $300 million water portfolio owner, Webster Limited. Webster Limited, of course, happened to be a National Party donor.

This also led to close to a million dead fish and the endangering of Australia’s most important water supply source, the Murray Darling Basin.


His record of destroying natural resources notwithstanding, after complaining publicly of how difficult it was to maintain his lifestyle on a mere backbencher’s salary (base salary at the time of $211K), which Barnaby compared to people on Newstart (then $14K per annum), then-PM Morrison created a special role to assist the "downtrodden" Joyce.

When no public report materialised from his time “working” as Special Envoy for Drought Assistance, Barnaby famously claimed he had sent it all to the PM via text. Said texts also never made it into the public realm.

You can read more about Barnaby's many colourful exploits in a list we prepared earlier, here

Even if we look past this latest example of Barnaby's egregious behaviour, it is hard to ignore the fact that this man – a repeat offender – is a Member of Parliament. He was the Leader of the National Party. He was our Deputy Prime Minister. He even represented Australia as Acting Prime Minister on several occasions.

Since, as usual, Barnaby is given a special leave pass by his party, by the Opposition and the Fourth Estate, there is no guarantee that this man – a man who cannot get his habits under control, usually doesn’t bother to hide his inebriated state while in Parliament and who can’t even read simple instructions on a medication bottle – will not again be in charge of our nation. 

We should not feel sorry for this entitled, old, white member of this protected species while he still wreaks havoc on our payroll.

There is more to this story! Subscribe today to read the full members-only article (and more) here.

You can follow managing editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter/X @independentaus and Facebook HERE.

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