Labor targets new Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce over climate change, Biloela, history with women

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New Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce sarcastically labelled himself Anthony Albanese’s “biggest supporter” as the pair sparred in parliament on Tuesday.

The opposition directed every question to the news Nationals leader in a raucous question time, Mr Joyce’s first back as Deputy Prime Minister since ousting Michael McCormack the day before.

Labor targeted Mr Joyce over his history with women, his climate change scepticism, and a potential rift with Prime Minister Scott Morrison over the Biloela family, as it looked to take advantage of the leadership spill.

The Labor leader noted Mr Joyce’s coup came during a pandemic, while his failed tilt in February 2020 occurred on a parliamentary day devoted to victims of the Black Summer Bushfires.

“Why is the Deputy Prime Minister only focused on his own job, and not on the real needs of Australians, including those in regional communities?” Mr Albanese asked.

RELATED: Barnaby Joyce palms off photo-bombing kid as he’s sworn in

Mr Joyce rebuffed Mr Albanese as a man “under a little bit of pressure himself”, joking he would support the opposition leader in any leadership challenge.

The Deputy Prime Minister described Mr Albanese as “the preamble”, pointing to Bill Shorten who he labelled “the outcome”.

“I am this man’s biggest backer. I want you to be there for the long haul!” he said of Mr Albanese.

“I tell you what, when you need the numbers to stay there, come and call me because I am your biggest supporter. We need you there.”

“This is a very strange rant,” Mr Albanese replied.

Mr Albanese pressed Mr Joyce on a video posted during his stint as a backbencher, in which he said he was “sick of the government being in my life” and demanded Australians respect God or “we’re going to get nailed”.

“Isn’t that just a wacky thing for a Deputy Prime Minister to say?” the Labor leader asked.

Mr Joyce joked he was “terrified” of the prospect of an Albanese-led government at the time of the video.

“But later on, after a cool down, I realised: we are government! Everything was fine, I cooled down,” he said.

Mr Joyce has four daughters from his first marriage, which broke down after his extramarital affair with then-Nationals staffer Vicki Campion was made public in 2018.

Ms Campion was briefly present at the start of question time.

News of the affair prompted then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to institute a so-called “bonk ban”, barring ministers from having sex with staffers.

Mr Joyce resigned as Nationals leader soon after over a sexual harassment allegation, which he vigorously denied.

Female Labor MPs repeatedly targeted the new Deputy Prime Minister on his history with women, after Nationals MP Michelle Landry warned women within and outside the party would be “unhappy” with his ascension.

Mr Joyce, who repeatedly cited “traditional” relationships during his campaign against same-sex marriage, described the “family unit” as “instrumental” to regional Australia.

“As a father of four daughters, I have an incredible vested interest in making sure women in agriculture and every section of society have the best opportunity, in the safest environment, they could possibly live in,” he said, to scorn from the Labor benches.

Mr Joyce last week said the two Australian-born Biloela girls, locked in Christmas Island detention for the majority of their lives, would be treated differently if there names were “Jane and Sally”.

Mr Albanese demanded to know whether Mr Joyce still supported the family being moved to Biloela as Deputy Prime Minister, but the question was ruled out of order as it referred to his time outside the ministry.

Mr McCormack was forced to take the Prime Minister’s chair during question time on Monday just hours after losing the ballot, with Mr Joyce not yet sworn-in and Prime Minister Scott Morrison in quarantine.

He sat quietly as his successor took over proceedings.

Mr Morrison, who remained in quarantine at the Lodge in Canberra, again appeared via videolink though the feed did not appear during Mr Joyce’s first answer.

“I am not sure why the Prime Minister has not appeared. Does that mean we have the Acting Prime Minister in the chair?” Labor leader in the House Tony Burke asked.

The Labor side cheered as Mr Morrison immediately appeared on screen, but his first answer was hampered by distant audio and barely discernible over the din created on the opposition benches.

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