Barnaby Joyce’s toddler has attempted to gatecrash an official photograph with the Prime Minister as his father’s return as Nationals leader was rubber stamped.
Mr Joyce travelled to Government House in Canberra for an official swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday, where his return to the deputy prime ministership was confirmed by Governor-General David Hurley three years after he left the post.
He ousted Michael McCormack during a party-room spill motion on Monday, just over a year since falling short in another bid to topple the leadership.
Mr Joyce was accompanied by partner Vikki Campion and their two toddlers, who showed no little regard for the pomp of the occasion as they climbed over their mother throughout the ceremony.
As Mr Joyce took the oath, Ms Campion was seen attempting to shush Sebastian, lifting the three-year old into a nearby chair.
One of the children could be heard loudly chatting with their mother as Mr Joyce officially signed.
Sebastian then attempted to gatecrash Mr Joyce’s official photo with Scott Morrison, appearing via videolink from quarantine at the Lodge, and Governor Hurley.
“Come here,” Ms Campion was heard laughing.
Mr Joyce has two children with Ms Campion and four from a previous marriage which broke down after revelations of an affair.
David Littleproud retained the Nationals deputy leadership after Monday’s spill, though some ministerial changes are expected after the parliamentary sitting week finishes on Thursday.
Mr Joyce has also replaced Mr McCormack as Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development.
The swearing-in did not come in time for Mr Joyce to sit on the frontbench during question time on Monday and, with Mr Morrison unable to attend in person, the already-deposed Michael McCormack was forced to take the Prime Minister’s chair during an awkward sitting.
Mr Joyce’s return is set to inflame tensions in the Coalition over climate change, as the Nationals push back against the Liberals’ shift towards a net zero emissions target.
During a trip to the UK last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison claimed the government had a “very clear” aim to reach the target.
But he was undercut by Nationals frontbencher Keith Pitt, who claimed the target was “not the government’s policy” and a change had not been raised with the junior Coalition partner.
During a shaky week deputising for Mr Morrison in question time, Mr McCormack refused to offer full-throated support for Mr Pitt or directly answer when asked whether his frontbencher was correct.
Mr Pitt reportedly voted for Mr Joyce, a staunch coal advocate, in Monday’s ballot.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said Mr Joyce’s ascension would further isolate Australia among developed nations that had already adopted net zero targets.
“The elevation of a climate change sceptic to the position of Deputy Prime Minister will just further damage Australia’s international reputation,” he said on Monday.
“What we have is a rump in the Coalition in the National Party.”
The new Nationals leader also recently launched an extraordinary attack on his own government over its treatment of the Biloela family, locked for two years on Christmas Island, saying their two young girls would be treated differently “if their names were Jane and Sally”.
The girls where both born in Australia and, despite the government’s attempts to deport them, their parents also remained highly popular in the local community.
“Why not send them to Southern Sudan, why not send them to Rwanda to Belarus? They’re also countries they were never born in,” Mr Joyce told Sunrise last week.
The comments were made just before the government bowed to pressure and allowed the family to live in community detention as their final legal options were assessed.
Mr Joyce had a chequered history during his last stint as Nationals leader; in 2018 he was forced to resign as he faced a sexual harassment allegation.
He vigorously denied the allegation and an investigation by the NSW Nationals was unable to reach a conclusion.
The allegation came after revelations Mr Joyce had an extramarital affair with Ms Campion, then a Nationals staffer, and the couple was expecting a child.
He had regularly cited his support for “traditional marriage” as he established himself as a leading opponent of same-sex marriage.
Before his return, Nationals MP Michelle Landry warned Mr Joyce could alienate women both within and outside the party.
text by Finn McHugh, NCA Newswire
“I think that if he became leader again there would be women out there that would be unhappy with that,’’ Ms Landry told news.com.au.
“It’s destabilising for everybody. Obviously there was a lot of feedback last time. I think he would have to tread carefully if he became leader again because there were women that weren’t happy.”
She did not reference Mr Joyce’s return in a Facebook post thanking Mr McCormack.
Mr Joyce was also ruled ineligible to sit in parliament in 2017 after being found to hold dual citizenship, but won his seat back in a subsequent by-election.