“I was the minister for everything”: Joyce
BARNABY Joyce has defended his use of taxpayer funded travel expenses to stay in Canberra for almost two months while parliament wasn't sitting, saying he was "minister for everything" at the time.
The former deputy prime minister was yesterday cleared of misusing his expenses to spend time with his adviser-turned-partner Vikki Campion, who lived in the capital.
Mr Joyce claimed at least $16,000 in refunds for 58 days he spent in Canberra in 2017 when parliament wasn't even sitting.
That compared to just 12 nights in 2015 and in 2016.
In a report yesterday, the entitlements watchdog, the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority, said it had to take the ex-Nationals leader at his word that he was telling the truth about his Canberra stays.
Mr Joyce said today he always expected to be cleared by the expenses authority, and that after "hundreds of questions" auditors found "not one single dollar misspent".
"I was just about minister for everything at one stage - Northern Australia, resources, water, agriculture, deputy prime minister, national security committee, expenditure review committee, deputy of cabinet," he told Channel Seven's Sunrise program.
"If you want to go through the work that's involved in that, good luck, mate. But you'll find that you do most of it in your office."
He added that the IPEA hadn't just accepted his word.
"They're not dopey. They cross-reference, they ring up other people, they have all the things at their disposal," he said.
Asked how Ms Campion and has new son Sebastian were coping, Mr Joyce said "they are going well", and he now wanted to "get back to my job" and debate issues such as power prices.
"That is what I'm worried about and what I'm going to be fighting for and all this other rubbish can just move on," he said.
Senior Turnbull Government minister Mathias Cormann said it was time to move on from the concerns around Mr Joyce's expenses.
"It was an independent audit by the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority looking at the work expenses claims that were submitted by Barnaby and his then staffer," he told Sky News.
"The independent authority found that everything was above board so yes, I think everyone should essentially move on."
Michael McCormack, who replaced Mr Joyce as deputy prime minister and Nationals leader after he quit over the scandal, said "you do have to spend a lot of time in Canberra as a minister, particularly in the role that Barnaby was in".
"I'm in that role now and I do spend a lot of nights in Canberra during those weeks that are not parliamentary sitting weeks," he told Sky News.
"The independent authority has cleared him, so nothing more to be seen."
Ms Campion was also cleared for the 25 trips she had taken with Mr Joyce and actually gained $978.36 back through the audit process.
During the audit, she provided the IPEA with a vehicle allowance claim that she believed she had submitted in 2017.
The IPEA did not have a record of the trip but verified it and then repaid Ms Campion the sum.