Allowing newly-appointed Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce to take part in a special Cabinet group designed to provide a fresh lens on women’s safety and security has been blasted as a “farce” and “unbelievable”.
- Shadow Minister for Women Tanya Plibersek said it was a “farce” that Mr Joyce would be involved in the taskforce
- Finance Minister Simon Birmingham defended Mr Joyce’s place in the group, arguing that leaders from both the Liberal and Nationals should be included
- Mr Joyce’s return to the second-highest office has drawn the ire of some women, who have described it a “backwards” step
Under questioning from Labor, the federal government on Thursday confirmed that Mr Joyce would replace his predecessor Michael McCormack on a Cabinet taskforce set up to improve outcomes for women.
That decision prompted a rebuke from the Opposition and Greens.
“Every person in their life tries to be a better person and I’m no different,” Mr Joyce told Parliament.
Mr Joyce’s return to the second-highest office has drawn the ire of some women, who have described it a “backwards” step, while some of his own female colleagues warned his reinstatement would leave some women unimpressed.
Barnaby Joyce’s return puts Scott Morrison in an awkward position
It was an unusual scene in Question Time an overthrown deputy still leading the proceedings, while the PM watched on from a screen. It’s just the start of a new tranche of battles for Scott Morrison, writes Brett Worthington.
He resigned from the role in 2018 following an accusation of sexual harassment which he strenuously denies and a separate revelation about an extramarital affair with a staffer.
In taking over as Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Joyce has also assumed a position on the taskforce established by Scott Morrison in March, after thousands of women took to the streets to rally against gender violence and inequality.
The taskforce was unveiled after the government had been rocked by a cultural reckoning about the treatment of women in federal politics and criticism over its handling of former staffer Brittany Higgins, who alleged she was raped at Parliament House.
Decision panned as ‘unbelievable’
Shadow Minister for Women Tanya Plibersek said it was “beyond farce” that Mr Joyce would be involved, while Greens Senator Larissa Waters described it as “unbelievable”.
Shadow Assistant Minister for the prevention of Family Violence Jenny McCallister called on Mr Morrison to explain why it was a good idea.
Simon Birmingham defended Mr Joyce’s role.(ABC News: Matt Roberts
“This women’s taskforce was supposed to reassure Australian women that their voices were being heard,” she said.
“It will be difficult for women to be confident that this is genuine while this taskforce includes Mr Joyce.
“It is hard to have confidence in a taskforce that includes a man that does not have the confidence of the women of the National Party.”
During Senate Question Time, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham defended Mr Joyce’s place in the group, arguing that leaders from both the Liberal and Nationals should be included.
“It is important in terms of the consideration of those matters of women’s safety and women’s economic security that the leadership of the government across the Coalition parties hears clearly on those issues of safety and economic security,” he told the Senate.
“That is what the purposes of that taskforce it’s why the Prime Minister is a member of the taskforce and co-chairs it with Senator Payne.
“It’s why the Deputy Prime Minister, Treasurer and myself as Minister for Finance are all there to ensure that it informs the decisions right across government as its intended to do.”