Barnaby Joyce fined for not wearing mask in breach of Covid rules after tipoff to police

Barnaby Joyce has been fined $200 for not wearing a mask while paying for petrol at a service station in Armidale after he was dobbed in by a member of the public.

The newly reinstated deputy prime minister used the end of an interview with Sky News’s Alan Jones to tell the story, as he waved his disposable mask in the air, while Jones attempted to wrap up the segment.

“The other day, you’ll like this story, I went into the Caltex service station, I was going to the airport, I forgot to get fuel for Vikki, fuelled the car up with fuel, went in, 30 seconds later, 200 bucks it cost me, because I didn’t wear one of these.

“But that’s life.”

It’s not clear if Joyce, who Jones welcomed as returning “intellectual clout” to the nation’s leadership, was aware that it was a member of the public who reported him to police.

Police confirmed a $200 penalty notice was issued to a 54-year-old man found to be breaching the public health order in the state’s north-west.

The New South Wales police deputy police commissioner Gary Worboys told media on Tuesday that after officers made inquiries into the tip, Joyce was issued the fine.

“That person was apologetic and cooperated with police being firm and fair,” he said.

“Police are rostered 24/7 right across the state and they will take action, and certainly the incident at Armidale is clear evidence that police will investigate and take action.”

Joyce returned as deputy prime minister three years after he resigned in 2018 over an accusation of sexual harassment, which he strenuously denied. Last week he successfully challenged the former Nationals leader Michael McCormack for the position.

With Scott Morrison in quarantine, Joyce spent most of the last week of parliament sitting in the prime minister’s chair, announcing he had spent the past three years on the backbench learning to be a better person, and believed he had changed.

Joyce was momentarily absent from parliament question time on Thursday to check whether he was considered a close contact and would need to isolate, after the NSW Nationals agriculture minister, Adam Marshall, tested positive for Covid. Joyce was believed to have seen Marshall before he became contagious.

The Nationals leader returned to say he was in the clear, although the same could not be said for his NSW party colleagues, many of whom attended a function hosted at the NSW parliament on Tuesday night, despite an escalation in Sydney Covid cases.

The deputy prime minister has also been urged to apologise for comments he made about Melbourne’s pandemic challenges after he told News Corp regional residents “couldn’t really give a shit” about the situation because coal prices were booming.

“It’s like saying I want zero cases of flu,” Joyce told News Corp’s Sunday tabloids. “It’s not possible.

“It’s like saying I want zero cases of measles, mumps. We’re going to shut the borders for that? It’s just not possible. You have to learn how live with it. How to manage it. What happens when next year we need to get universities going again, what, you close all the fuckers down, do you?”

When asked by the journalist whether those comments would be problematic in a place like Melbourne, Joyce said: “Of course. But in country areas we couldn’t really give a shit. We’ve got record exports of coal. Record exports of beef. But we look at Melbourne, and go, you can almost smell the burning flesh from here.”

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