The Slatest

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Resigns Following Sex Scandal, Because Australian Politics Is a Mess Too

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 16:  Barnaby Joyce speaks to the press on February 16, 2018 in Canberra, Australia. Mr Joyce announced last week that he had separated from his wife and was expecting a child with his former media adviser Vikki Campion. Since then, speculation has mounted that the National Party leader may have to resign as Deputy Prime Minister.  (Photo by Michael Masters/Getty Images)
The man responsible for the “bonk ban.”
Michael Masters/Getty Images

Here’s something that might make Americans feel slightly better (or not) about their country’s ludicrous leadership: Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has been forced stepped down from his post—again—following a litany of scandals surrounding his affair with his former media adviser and soon-to-be baby mama, Vikki Campion. That’s right, Mike Pence’s Australian counterpart not only dines with women who are not Mother—he also impregnates them.

Joyce—the outgoing leader of the rural-based National Party and an advocate for good ol’ fashioned “family values”—spent the last two weeks desperately trying to hold onto his job as the #BarnaBaby scandal unfolded, warring with the media and trading passive aggressive insults with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, with whom Joyce’s Nationals maintain a coalition government. The deputy prime minister finally stepped down on Friday after his own party began moving against him. Republicans, take note.

The affair started making headlines on Feb. 7, after tabloid the Daily Telegraph published a front-page photo of a pregnant Campion with the headline “Bundle of Joyce.” (The affair was said to be an open secret among politicians and the media but had up until now been kept quiet out of respect for Joyce’s family, including his four daughters.) While Australia is not an overly puritanical electorate, many were incensed that Joyce had spent the latter part of 2017 campaigning against marriage equality on the basis that it would degrade the institution of marriage for his daughters while engaged in an extramarital affair.

No stranger to hypocrisy, the deputy PM might almost have been able to ride the scandal out, had it not become apparent that Joyce had probably misused public funds to carry out his affair: Last year, he claimed travel allowance for 50 out-of-session nights in the nation’s capital (more than any other minister) and now lives rent-free with Campion in an apartment provided by a political donor. He has also been accused of breaching the ministerial code of conduct in failing to declare his lover his partner when she worked in his office, as well as when she was moved to another high-paying and unadvertised job in the office of a fellow minister (Joyce claims she wasn’t technically his partner at the time.) Two other woman have since come forward to accuse Joyce of sexual harassment and misconduct, allegations he has denied.

The BarnaBaby has led Prime Minister Turnbull to introduce a new rule banning grown adult government ministers from having sex with their staff, quickly dubbed the “bonk ban.” In a press conference, he called his deputy’s actions a “shocking error,” to which Joyce shot back, calling the Prime Minister’s comments “inept.” Remember how inane political insults used to be?

You may recall Barnaby Joyce from such scandals as the time he publicly threatened to kill Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s dogs because they circumvented customs (and then forced Depp and Heard to publicly apologize), or the time he mocked members of the Australian Greens over their dual citizenship blunder, only to find himself also guilty of being a New Zealander (and then refused to stand down until the High Court disqualified him. The man could win awards for his hypocrisy). It’s less likely you heard about the times he permanently ruined the word carp for no reason, brought a whip to the press gallery’s annual Mid-Winter Ball, or was removed as opposition finance spokesman because he claimed Australia was likely to default on its foreign debt. The blundering, blustering, bush hat–wearing Barnaby has long cut a figure as ridiculous as his name, a Simpsons Australia parody come to life.

Joyce has already been forced to step down once in the last six months, though he quickly climbed his way back up. Hopefully Australia has seen the last of this embarrassing leader. And hopefully, for just a moment, Americans can feel a little less embarrassed about their own. (Or not.)

Rachel Withers is a Slate Brow Beat assistant and an embarrassed Australian citizen.