While the Barnaby Joyce sex scandal continues to roll on in Canberra, there has been another story bubbling along under the surface for much longer that points to a systemic problem in Canberra.
Australian Border Force (ABF) Commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg is believed to have now accrued more than $400,000 in salary payments while on leave, as an external investigation into his personal conduct drags on into a new year.
Under Senate estimates questioning last October, then-Immigration Department secretary Mike Pezzullo publicly confirmed the few facts that are known about the ABF Commissioner’s extended paid leave, which is now into at least its ninth month.
“The leave commenced in, I would have to refresh my memory, the latter part of May or possibly the early part of June,” Mr Pezzullo told the 2017 parliamentary hearing.
According to the ABC, Mr Quaedvlieg’s alleged relationship with a member of the ABF is being examined by the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, but this has never been officially acknowledged.
The allegation is that Mr Quaedvlieg had helped a junior staff member, with whom he was in a relationship, obtain a job at Sydney Airport.
He has denied the allegation from the outset, arguing internally that he took steps to put himself at arm’s length from the process and that his partner was elected on merit.
During the October Senate estimates hearing, Labor senator Kim Carr referred to the allegations while questioning the Departmental Secretary.
“The allegation is with regard to a relationship between staff members, is it not?” Senator Carr asked.
“I’ve seen press reporting to that effect,” Mr Pezzullo replied during his estimates appearance.
“I’m not going to comment on that press reporting.”
To date, Mr Quadvileig’s only public comments on the matter have been through a statement to The Australian newspaper last year in which he insisted he had not acted inappropriately and expected to return to his post as ABF Commissioner.
“I’m looking forward to an early exoneration and resuming my public service career and contributing to Australia’s national security,” he told The Australian.
With the Joyce situation continuing to play out, many on social media and the Canberra press gallery are pointing out the differences in standards being applied to the two public servants.
While Mr Quadvileig has been forced to take leave while the situation is investigated, Joyce continues to serve while making excuses about exactly when his staffer became his partner, even as new revelations come to light regarding extra time he spent in Canberra when Parliament was not sitting.
According to The Age, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce charged taxpayers to spend 50 nights in Canberra when Parliament was not sitting in the first nine months of 2017.
Official expense records show Mr Joyce claimed $16,690 in travel allowance for out-of-session nights in the nation’s capital between January 1 and September 30, 2017. That is significantly more than top government figures such as Treasurer Scott Morrison, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have claimed.
What do you think? Is there a double standard when it comes to politicians and affairs with their staff? Should Barnaby Joyce step down or resign?