Barnaby Joyce denies he has a drinking problem

Source: Daily Mail

Coalition frontbencher Barnaby Joyce has denied he has a drinking problem after embarrassing footage emerged this week of the former deputy prime minister intoxicated on a Canberra footpath.

Joyce was speaking on Sky News on Thursday night after independent MP Zali Steggall suggested in Parliament that MPs be subject to random drug and alcohol testing.

” I don’t have a drinking problem,” Joyce told Sky News, adding, “I go long periods without having a drink.”

“It’s been confirmed I don’t have a drinking problem, just shouldn’t drink on medication,” he said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese rejected the drug and alcohol testing proposal, saying while MPs needed to behave responsibly at all times, testing for alcohol or drugs at work should not be part of the job.

“I don’t want to see us be in a position where we say that we are unable to act like adults, and to have the suggestion which is made,” he told Parliament on Thursday.

“I would have thought that we are all responsible adults and we should act appropriately out of respect for the people who put us here,” he said.

A video of Joyce first published by The Daily Mail showed the Nationals MP lying on his back swearing into his phone on a Canberra street after falling off a planter box.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and Nationals leader David Littleproud have urged Joyce to take leave to get the help he needs.

Albanese said while he understands the reasons behind the suggestions made for alcohol testing, it was a step too far.

“There have been, of course, issues from time to time in the parliament, but one of the things about our jobs is we’re accountable,” he said.

“Every three years, at least, we go to the Australian people and we’re accountable for what we say and what we do and how we act.

“People need to act responsibly at all times, to bear in mind the great privilege and honour that we have.”

Meanwhile, Nationals MP and strong ally of My Joyce Keith Pitt has defended the former deputy prime minister’s behaviour.

Pitt said Mr Joyce would be needed at the next election and would be an asset for the opposition.

“Politics is a lot like sports,” Mr Pitt told ABC radio.

“Whether you like people or don’t like them, if you don’t turn out your best team – if you bench your best players – you don’t win any games.

“The big game is the federal election … we need our strongest players on the field and Barnaby is clearly one of them.” 

Joyce was elected to parliament in 2004 and remains a popular MP.

He won the seat of New England with a 14 per cent margin after independent Tony Windsor retired in 2013, and Mr Joyce held the electorate with an even stronger buffer at the last election.

Mr Joyce, 56, who is the opposition veteran’s affairs spokesman, admitted to making a “big mistake” and blamed his behaviour on a mixture of alcohol and prescription drugs, adding “there’s no excuse for it”.

-with AAP

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