Un­der the shadow of his Akubra there’s a glint in Barnaby Joyce’s eye. It’s the gaze of an old bull siz­ing up a ri­val – a dog of war lean­ing into the leash. He’s stand­ing un­der lights giv­ing GQ the thou­sand-yard stare of a farmer in the city. Though there’s no miss­ing the sparkle of a dad see­ing a journo chat­ting up his daugh­ter. We’re hardly the first to twig that Barnaby Thomas Ger­ard Joyce is not to be tri­fled with. Since stam­ped­ing into the po­lit­i­cal bear pit in 2005 as a se­na­tor for Queens­land (af­ter be­ing elected in 2004), gain­ing lead­er­ship of The Na­tion­als in the Se­nate in 2008 and adding min­is­ter for agri­cul­ture and wa­ter re­sources in 2015, then, deputy prime min­is­ter to his port­fo­lio of ti­tles in 2016, Joyce has brought his bullish brand of earthy pol­i­tics with­out fear or favour. Car­toon­ists of­ten de­pict him as a slaver­ing at­tack dog by the Prime Min­is­ter’s side. And in per­son, as he is in The House, Joyce, 50, has heft – loom­ing big, fleshy and firm. A farm boy, a fa­ther of four daugh­ters and a one-time ac­coun­tant who’s still based in Tam­worth in north­ern NSW, Joyce is also Aus­tralia’s most fa­mous mav­er­ick politi­cian, hav­ing crossed the floor some 28 times as a se­na­tor to side against his own party. But as Joyce calls an end to GQ’S shoot and sits down to chat, he’s less the crazy­brave mav­er­ick thun­der­ing op­po­si­tion to cli­mate change, same-sex mar­riage, po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and Johnny Depp’s smug­gled dogs, and more the fa­ther his 20-year-old daugh­ter Brid­gette de­scribes to us – a man pre­pared to aban­don his beer run at a Rolling Stones con­cert to scoot his large RMS to ‘Street Fight­ing Man’. GQ: In your maiden speech you said politi­cians of­ten breed con­tempt. Why? Barnaby Joyce: Politi­cians so of­ten get con­fused about who they re­ally are. The me­dia means peo­ple see politi­cians 24/7. They hear you on ra­dio. They hear about you on Face­book. They see you on the news. They watch you on Q&A. Some even catch you on Ques­tion Time. They know you. And it all means they can smell bull­shit on you. GQ: En­ter­ing Par­lia­ment, you said the peril was you’d “gain weight and lose touch”. BJ: I see new mem­bers turn up look­ing sleek and sharp. Then they start go­ing to lots of func­tions, and talk­ing only to peo­ple in­side that big board­ing school called Par­lia­ment House. The per­son elected starts to evolve into a per­son that can sur­vive in the board­ing school. And that new per­son is not some­one the peo­ple would elect. GQ: So how do you rem­edy that?

BJ: Find a mech­a­nism for stay­ing real. I’m not brazen. I try to be au­then­tic. I lis­ten. If I be­lieve in it, I say so. If I don’t be­lieve, I say so. If I don’t know, I say noth­ing. I don’t bang on. Twice a day I walk down the street and talk to peo­ple. I go to the footy and give peo­ple space to talk. I go to pubs on Fri­day nights so peo­ple can ap­proach me. At first they’re po­lite… but af­ter a few beers, they tell you what they re­ally think. GQ: Your rep­u­ta­tion is as a man who’s never back­ward in com­ing for­ward. BJ: I learnt the hard way that if you want to fight ev­ery­one in the pub, you’ll soon lose. So these days I pick the is­sues I want to fight on for my con­stituency, for our na­tion. GQ: You fa­mously sprayed your party’s front benchers re­cently about look­ing af­ter “George and Ox­ford Street is­sues” rather than heart­land con­cerns. BJ: On the bell curve of views, politi­cians are at the ex­trem­i­ties and if we get dis­tracted by things on the edge, we lose peo­ple in the mid­dle. Take 18C [amend­ments to Aus­tralia racial dis­crim­i­na­tion laws] – cer­tain mem­bers think ‘the world’s gonna col­lapse if we don’t change 18C’. No, the world will go on. The other one is gay mar­riage. Mate, I can as­sure you, on most streets of Aus­tralia, peo­ple do not give a shit about it. It’s an is­sue, but it’s way down the list of pri­or­i­ties. Where it’s dan­ger­ous is when it’s pur­sued to the cost of ma­jor is­sues and the pub­lic think, ‘These bug­gers don’t get us.’ GQ: You’re the fifth of six kids so you’ve fought hard to be heard from the get-go.

BJ: Our fam­ily ta­ble hosted more so­lil­o­quies than de­bates – but re­gard­less of my age, I learnt very young how to hold a po­si­tion. If your ar­gu­ment wasn’t co­gent and backed up with facts, you’d get chopped down very quickly. It taught me to put some meat on the bone be­hind my ar­gu­ment be­fore I opened my yap. Both Mum and Dad went to Syd­ney Uni. One of my broth­ers is a doc­tor, another is a so­lic­i­tor. One brother’s a trans­la­tor for the Korean fu­tures mar­ket. Grow­ing up with that lot, I couldn’t talk crap. GQ: Is it true that at age 10 you listed your am­bi­tion as: ‘To be Prime Min­is­ter’? BJ: Yeah. Missed it by one.

“when there are tough times, I’ve got to eat my ego, or I’ll just crawl up into a lit­tle ball and be to­tally in­ef­fec­tual as a hu­man be­ing.”

GQ: Does the man still har­bour the dreams of the boy? BJ: Look, when you’re young, you have all sorts of am­bi­tions and as­pi­ra­tions and you don’t re­ally un­der­stand how much work is in­volved to get there. Why would a Wool­brook Pub­lic school kid say that? Be­cause deep down I never wanted to be one of those peo­ple who vents their frus­tra­tions and bitches. I wanted to change things. That’s al­ways been part of my make-up. GQ: What fired the am­bi­tion to change things up? BJ: Peo­ple who aren’t real. Peo­ple who don’t know what real work is. Even to­day, if I’m drench­ing sheep or mark­ing cat­tle or do­ing hard, phys­i­cal work, it helps me re­con­nect with that frus­tra­tion I had as an an­gry young man at the sunny side of the drench­ing race with lots of work to do, lis­ten­ing to politi­cians on the ra­dio and get­ting an­gry. GQ: They say lead­ers are ei­ther born or made. Which ap­plies to you? BJ: A bit of both. I’ve also been lucky. Right place, right time. I’ve al­ways be­lieved that pas­sion can be de­vel­oped but charisma… you ei­ther have it or you don’t. GQ: Un­like many politi­cians, you lived in the ‘real’ world prior to run­ning for of­fice – work­ing as a labourer, a bouncer and an ac­coun­tant be­fore you fi­nally won a se­nate seat in 2004, aged 37. Is that ground­ing vi­tal for a life in pol­i­tics? BJ: Fair dinkum it was. I started work­ing, se­ri­ously work­ing, at 10 or 11. If you live on the land that’s how it is – you do a lot of man­ual work, farm labour­ing to me­nial, ba­sic jobs. And not for money. If I put my hand out for some pocket money or some sort of pay­day, my par­ents would say: ‘Well, aren’t we pay­ing for your board­ing school fees, mate?’ GQ: Was your stint in the army re­serve from 1994–1999 part of do­ing your duty?

BJ: My fam­ily have al­ways been in the ser­vices. Both grand­fa­thers were serv­ing mem­bers. My fa­ther’s fa­ther landed at Gal­lipoli the first day and left on the last. He got a DCM, one be­low a Vic­to­ria Cross, for brav­ery un­der fire on the Western Front, and a military OBE, too. Be­tween the wars he was a body­guard for Ed­ward VIII. And then he chased the Ja­panese all around the Pa­cific and up to Guadal­canal in WWII. So com­pared to him, a man who’s been in a real two-way shoot­ing gallery, mine was the most mi­nor ser­vice. It was re­ally just guilt that made me join up. I thought, ‘I’d bet­ter do some­thing.’ GQ: Do you feel fear?

BJ: I’m not fool­ish, I don’t live with­out it, but I do seem to man­age fear pretty well. GQ: Any near-death ex­pe­ri­ences grow­ing up a farm kid?

BJ: Heaps. As a kid I’d get asthma at­tacks when no­body was able to hear me in the house. Got kicked in the head by a horse once… per­fo­rated my spleen in a footy game and ended up in in­ten­sive care… a few car crashes I was lucky to walk away from. GQ: Be­fore the army stint you were a bouncer. How did that come about? BJ: It was in Ar­mi­dale. I was at uni and needed some money. One day a mate of mine said, ‘Look, the fella that runs the floor at the Wick­low Ho­tel is sick and we need some­body to come in to­mor­row.’ I did all right that first night, so they asked me back. GQ: When you say ‘did all right’, does that mean you proved your­self a hard man? BJ: I don’t want to crow about it, but yeah. I was play­ing first-grade footy at the time and I’ve al­ways known how to look af­ter my­self. Most of the time I ‘bounced’ by talk­ing. I’d say, ‘Mate, I don’t want the has­sle. I wanna go home tonight and so do you. So I’m gonna walk around the other side and when I come back you’re gonna be in­vis­i­ble.’ GQ: Is it a tac­tic that works in Par­lia­ment?

BJ: No, but it does help fine-tune your skills for work­ing out who can re­ally hurt you and who’s a bluff. And it sharp­ened my con­tempt for peo­ple who throw their ego around. I still find my­self siz­ing ri­vals up and think­ing, ‘You’re not that thick a wheel, mate.’ In pol­i­tics, that sort of bravado usu­ally comes from peo­ple who’ve never done a hard day’s work in their life. The Wick­low taught me that if they said that any­where other than Par­lia­ment, some­one would be hand­ing them their teeth back on a plate. GQ: Didn’t some­one hand you your teeth back on plate, too? BJ: I have 28 stitches in my head from those days. And yes, I got my front teeth re­moved by a bloke called Craig Mor­gan.

GQ: You re­mem­ber his name? BJ: When some­one re­moves your front teeth, you re­mem­ber their name. GQ: Is that sort of righ­teous anger still a big driv­ing force for your ego?

BJ: That sort of ego – as in an un­ques­tion­ing be­lief in your­self – can be dan­ger­ous. But you’ve cer­tainly got to have self-be­lief or you’d never get out of bed in the morning. As a politi­cian, I’ve got to have the drive and ca­pac­ity to take on a se­ri­ous task and see it through. And when there are tough times, I’ve got to eat that lit­tle self-be­lief pill called ego, or I’ll just crawl up into a lit­tle ball and be to­tally in­ef­fec­tual as a hu­man be­ing. GQ: And when you pop those self-be­lief pills, what do they fire you up for? BJ: Two things. The first is ‘chal­lenges’. I mean, one-on-one com­bat. I’ve thrived on that since my footy days. Se­condly, ‘pol­icy’. I don’t ever want the day to come where it’s all over and I’ve got a bit left in the tank. I want to say, ‘We did that. We achieved this. How did it hap­pen? Be­cause I fought for it. Be­cause I got us go­ing. I fired the joint up.’ GQ: Your 2016 elec­tion battle against Tony Wind­sor sure had you fired up. BJ: Peo­ple like to see two peo­ple who can re­ally scrap. But heavy­weights are judged not by their mi­nor fights but their big ones. So, when we talk about ego, that [battle for New Eng­land] was my ego per­son­i­fied. GQ: You be­came the first in his­tory to win back seats in the Se­nate and House of Reps. BJ: The first of those heavy­weight fights was against a cer­tain red-headed lady [Pauline Han­son], and the Greens, and the Democrats, and the La­bor party. And no one gave us a snowflake’s chance. Even John Howard cam­paigned against me. But we won it. And the next time I stepped into the ring was against a bloke with a 23 per cent mar­gin

and a mil­lion-dol­lar cam­paign and the [NSW] Teach­ers Fed­er­a­tion, the Mar­itime Union [of Aus­tralia] and Getup! against us. GQ: And now you’re the Prime Min­is­ter se­cond-in-com­mand. How’s that go­ing? BJ: Mal­colm and I get along. I gen­uinely thought we wouldn’t, but we gen­uinely do. GQ: Why didn’t you think you’d get on?

BJ: Be­cause we’d had a huge blue in the past over the car­bon tax. And… GQ: … And it got per­sonal?

BJ: Oh, hell yeah! GQ: How so?

BJ: Oh, god – fu­ri­ous ar­gu­ment. Ab­so­lutely fu­ri­ous. Shout­ing, scream­ing, the whole lot. GQ: Whose teeth ended up on the plate?

BJ: Well, other peo­ple kept a cap on it by get­ting me out of the room. Bundling me out like I used to do folks at the Wick­low. So af­ter that, it was raw but now we re­spect each other. We work well to­gether. He com­pletely trusts my con­fi­dence and I trust his. GQ: So it took a ‘You. Me. Carpark. Now’ dust-up to ce­ment a friend­ship? BJ: No one ever got to the top of any game by ac­ci­dent. Peo­ple get to the top by rea­son of tal­ent, by drive, by learn­ing from their mis­takes, by per­sis­tence. GQ: So is Mal­colm a close friend to­day?

BJ: No. We’ve both got a job to do. We’re both lead­ers of our po­lit­i­cal par­ties and that comes with bound­aries. At times, those par­ties have dif­fer­ent agen­das. But we re­spect each other and work closely to­gether, and we’re friendly… but we’re not close. GQ: What are your re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to Mal­colm as his deputy?

BJ: The role of any deputy, in any job, is to look af­ter the leader. And to be a sound­ing board so they can work through ideas in their own head, to lis­ten and help work through is­sues be­cause to run the coun­try is a huge hon­our, but peo­ples’ lives are on the line. So, for Mal­colm and me, that means a lot of hon­est con­ver­sa­tions, one-on-one, over a cup of tea or a glass of wine where he’ll say, ‘Barny, what’s your view?’ and I’ll say, ‘Well Mal, I think you’re right on this but wrong on that… so how are we go­ing to play it?’ GQ: Are you at the top now? Or would you like to go one step fur­ther? BJ: No, that’s it. I’m deputy PM. I’ve been act­ing PM. I’m quite happy with that. Our goal in the Na­tional Party is al­ways to be the power be­hind the throne. PM’S a ti­tle. What you can do and what you do is to­tally dif­fer­ent. Me? I’ll take ef­fect over ti­tle any day. GQ: Look­ing back on 20 years in pol­i­tics, what mark do you give your­self? BJ: I s’pose eight and a half. Maybe that makes me sound full of my­self, but I know how bloody hard I’ve worked. A pol­lie who scores them­selves six or less is pretty use­less.

GQ: And if you had to hang your Akubra on your three big­gest suc­cesses so far? BJ: Change of for­eign in­vest­ment guide­lines. It’s gone from $252m down to $15m, and now we have bet­ter con­trol over who owns our na­tion. Dams and in­land rail, ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture that was never go­ing to hap­pen un­til we drove them through. Coun­try of ori­gin la­belling – again, peo­ple said it would never hap­pen, it’s there. These are ma­jor changes in pol­icy, most of them made suc­cess­ful against the tide. GQ: You’re still fired up – so much so a lady watch­ing Ques­tion Time re­cently rang 000 wor­ried about your health. BJ: Yeah, some dear old girl saw me rant­ing all red in the face and was gen­uinely wor­ried about me. But a lot of that’s theatre. Par­lia­ment is an ad­ver­sar­ial cham­ber and that’s how it works. You’ve gotta re­mem­ber that a lot of the time I can’t hear my­self speak – they’re all scream­ing at me, try­ing to get un­der my skin and make me look like a fool. GQ: What three words best de­scribe you?

BJ: Warm. Driven. And … a lit­tle bit lonely. GQ: Lonely?

BJ: Yes – as you go up the tree in pol­i­tics, your cir­cle of friends be­come less and less. GQ: Who’s your clos­est friend in Can­berra – and we mean per­sonal friend, not ally.

BJ: I dunno. Can­berra’s full of ac­quain­tances… [min­is­ter for re­sources and North­ern Aus­tralia] Matthew Cana­van was my chief of staff be­fore he was in pol­i­tics, so he’s seen me at my best and worst and knows me well. Wacka [NSW Na­tional Party se­na­tor John Wil­liams] and I go back a fair way. [In­de­pen­dent se­na­tor] Nick Xenophon is another I like and trust. If I talk pol­i­tics to Nick, I’m ab­so­lutely cer­tain it stays in the vault. GQ: And your great­est en­emy?

BJ: Right now, Bill Shorten. I’ve got no

per­sonal an­i­mos­ity against him. He’s got his job to do and I’ve got mine, but I don’t rate him highly. Any per­son there that long should have a clear vi­sion. It mightn’t be what I want but I should be able to un­der­stand it. But what does Bill want? What’s his great vi­sion for our na­tion? You tell me… GQ: Would there be any­one in La­bor that you like?

BJ: Oh yeah. [Shadow min­is­ter for hous­ing and home­less­ness and shadow min­is­ter for skills and ap­pren­tice­ships] Dougie Cameron is a crazy, left, lu­natic union­ist but if you told him where you hid your keys, he wouldn’t tell any­body. [Mem­ber for Chi­fley] Ed Hu­sic is on the way up. He seems real. [Mem­ber for Fowler] Chris Hayes is a good, smart politi­cian, al­ways in­creases his mar­gin no mat­ter the seat and each time there’s a fac­tional brawl and they try to kick him out, he sur­vives. These blokes are com­pletely the op­po­site of me in pol­i­tics, but I re­spect them. GQ: What about the deputy leader of the op­po­si­tion, Tanya Plibersek? BJ: Tanya’s off with the fairies. Her pol­icy set­tings are not thought out. She doesn’t get her facts right. She comes un­stuck on ques­tions. And I don’t know what her vi­sion is – es­pe­cially for my peo­ple, re­gional peo­ple. GQ: An­thony Al­banese?

BJ: Albo would be a threat. He would talk to my peo­ple. GQ: And do you think Tony Ab­bott still talks to your peo­ple? BJ: No. He’s talk­ing to him­self I think… and he’s got to stop. GQ: Do you ever talk to your­self?

BJ: Maybe when I’m recharg­ing. A few days ev­ery year I sneak away by my­self. I just tell ev­ery­body I’m do­ing some­thing else and then bug­ger off bush­walk­ing. I jump in rivers and stare up at the sky and think about what’s it’s all about. n

“I’ve got no per­sonal an­i­mos­ity against bill shorten, but I don’t rate him. Any per­son there that long should have a clear vi­sion.”

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