Barnaby Joyce: Man who threatened to kill Johnny Depp's dogs made Australia's deputy prime minister

'Entertaining but erratic' Barnaby Joyce has been elected unopposed as the leader of the National party

Caroline Mortimer
Thursday 11 February 2016 14:24
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Barnaby Joyce was elected unopposed as the National party leader
Barnaby Joyce was elected unopposed as the National party leader

A man who threatened to “euthanise” actor Johnny Depp’s dogs has become the deputy prime minister of Australia.

Former agricultural minister Barnaby Joyce made headlines around the world in May last year when warned he would kill the actor’s Yorkshire Terriers, Pistol and Boo, if he did not take them back to the US.

He accused Depp and wife Amber Heard of smuggling the dogs into the country on board their private jet - and avoiding animal quarantine procedures - while the actor returned to resume filming for the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean film.

Heard pleaded not guilty to two counts of illegally importing the dogs and one of producing a false document. She could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted at her trial, scheduled for April 18.

Mr Joyce will be sworn in as deputy prime minister after being elected as leader of the National party unopposed. The party is in a coalition with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberal party.

Fiona Nash, the rural health minister, was elected the party’s deputy leader after a contest with six of her colleagues.

Mr Joyce threatened to kill Amber Heard and Johnny Depp's dogs

Mr Joyce has forged a reputation as a “maverick” populist politician during his time in the Australian senate but acting opposition leader Penny Wong had said she could not see the “entertaining but erratic” politician leading the party.

The climate change sceptic raised eyebrows in 2009 when campaigning against the then-ruling Labour party’s proposed carbon tax.

He made a series of outlandish claims, including saying the tax would see the cost of lamb roasts soar to AUS$100 (£45) and urged journalists to observe the weather, saying “no one thinks it is too hot”.

The 48-year-old also claimed same-sex marriage would damage cattle exports in Asia, as they would view the country as "decadent".

The self-declared “agrarian socialist” has campaigned against foreign-owned businesses investing in Australian agriculture and has called for stronger competition laws to protect small businesses.

His appointment marks a change at the top of the coalition government, which has already seen the ousting of its former head Tony Abbott last year, with his relationship with Mr Turnbull under scrutiny. The furore over the carbon tax is largely credited with Mr Turnbull’s ousting as leader of the Liberal party in 2009.

Additional reporting by AP

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