Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has been labelled a ‘bozo’ after trying to downplay Scott Morrison using his secret ministerial powers to overrule a Nationals MP doing the same job.
Mr Joyce said ordinary punters would be more preoccupied with prices at the supermarket rather than ‘hyperventilating’ about what the former prime minister did.
Nationals MP Keith Pitt was resources minister in the former Morrison government but Mr Morrison secretly gave himself that ministry along with four others in 2021.
Mr Morrison then overruled Mr Pitt’s approval for the controversial gas project Pep-11 to keep exploring while Mr Joyce was Nationals leader and deputy prime minister.
Speaking to ABC’s Insiders on Sunday, Mr Joyce said the issue was being overblown.
‘There is a little bit of hyperventilation coming into this,’ he said.
Barnaby Joyce blasted for check-out comparison
Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has been called a ‘bozo’ and a ‘clown’ after an interview where he tried to downplay and justify Scott Morrison having a secret ministerial role where he over-ruled a Nationals MP doing the same job
Mr Joyce claimed most ‘average’ Aussies were not interested in the brewing scandal.
‘I understand Insiders is a political program and is focused on this but they are not focused on this at the checkout at IGA,’ he said.
‘They’re probably more focussed on that Mr (Chris) Bowen has changed the laws on vehicle standards and now we are going to pay more for four-wheel drives in country areas – that affects them.’
Mr Morrison, here seen with wife Jenny, secretly took on five ministerial portfolios while prime minister
Mr Joyce also couldn’t say when exactly he learnt the Nationals MP was sharing his portfolio with Mr Morrison.
He also said he believed in a ‘cabinet’ system of government rather than a ‘presidential’ one and appeared dismayed that Mr Pitt was overruled.
‘I believe Keith Pitt was a competent minister, incredibly confident and was all over the Pep-11 issue like a bad suit and understood all the ramifications of any decision,’ Mr Joyce said.
‘And I think it should have been left with him to make that decision and I think in our discussions that is the direction it had.’
Mr Joyce appeared to say he accepted this because to not do so might mean his party would lose a ministry because what was done was legal and there was nothing the Nationals could do about it.
‘Has (Mr Morrison) got the capacity to renegotiate the extra minister that I just dealt into the National Party hand?’ Mr Joyce said was the question he asked himself.
‘Yeah, he could just say “I’ll fix your problem mate”. He could just take the ministry back off you and go “it’s gone now, problem fixed for you, problem fixed for me”. That’s a bad outcome for the National Party.’
Mr Joyce’s answers over Scott Morrison’s secret ministry roles have drawn scorn on twitter, including this post from Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young
Mr Joyce continually batted away questions from ABC journalist and Insiders host David Speers as to when he was aware Mr Morrison was in the same ministry as Mr Pitt.
‘Obviously I wasn’t aware of it at the start because it happened prior to me coming back as leader,’ Mr Joyce, who became Nationals leader again in June 2021,’ he said.
‘And then over a period time in discussions with the Pep-11 it became more apparent the the prime minister had greater powers than I initially assumed.’
Former political opponent Tony Windsor joined journalists Lenore Taylor, Josh Butler and Karen Middleton to criticise Mr Joyce
Journalists Francis Leach and Ben Eltham were also less than impressed with Mr Joyce’s performance
Mr Joyce’s answers drew fire from a number of political players and journalists.
‘Thank god this bozo is no longer the nation’s Deputy Prime Minister,’ Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young tweeted.
‘Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce really do deserve each other.’
Tony Windsor, who lost his NSW seat of New England to Mr Joyce in a bitter contest during 2013, was also unimpressed.
‘Those who condemned David Speers for having Barnaby Joyce on Insiders ABC should watch the replay,’ Mr Windsor tweeted.
‘Joyce displays that he is only interested in the politics not the structures that underpin our institutions. Those who didn’t know already will see what a dope Joyce is.
Radio presenter and journalist Francis Leach took aim at the claim Australians were only worried about their grocery bill.
‘Hey I’m worried out about prices at the check-out AND #ScottMorrison’s personal coup,’ he tweeted.
‘Thinking about two things at once, huh? Amazing what grown ups can do. Clown.’
Labor state SA MP gave his unfavourable review of Mr Joyce’s interview on Sunday morning
Some high profile journalists also poured scorn on Mr Joyce’s answers.
The Guardian’s Lenore Taylor tweeted: ‘”You weren’t curious as to how (the PM) overruled the PEP11 decision,” asks David Speers. “No, not particularly”, answers Barnaby Joyce.
‘”There’s nothing confusing about it,” says Barnaby Joyce, after giving the most confusing answer yet,’ tweeted fellow Guardian journalist Josh Butler.
Nationals MP Keith Pitt was over-ruled by Mr Morrison over approving the Pep-11 oil and gas project to continue
The prime minster overruled Mr Pitt to deny a permit renewal of the Pep-11 oil and gas exploration, which was looking at the possibility of drilling offshore between Newcastle and Sydney.
A number of Liberal MPs holding seats along NSW coastal areas were known to be opposed to the project.
The blocking of the Pep-11 licence is being challenged in the federal court.
The Pep-11 project has been denied a licence to explore drilling for oil and gas off NSW