Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has said he offered to quit after calling the prime minister “a hypocrite and a liar” in a text.
Mr Joyce apologised after learning that the message – sent last year and passed to a former staffer of Scott Morrison’s Liberal Party – was being made public.
The text was dated 22 March, before Mr Joyce took on his current role.
Rejecting his resignation, Mr Morrison said: “We all have our frailties and none of us are perfect.”
Mr Joyce, 54, told reporters on Saturday: “I want to apologise to the prime minister… I should have never written the text that I did.
“My view from the backbench about the prime minister was based on assumptions and commentary, not from a one-on-one working relationship.”
In a screenshot of the text message, which was leaked earlier this week, Mr Joyce describes Mr Morrison as “a hypocrite and a liar from my observations, and that is over a long time”, adding: “I dislike how he earnestly rearranges the truth to a lie.”
He further says he “never trusted” and did not “get along” with Mr Morrison.
It was sent by a third party to Brittany Higgins, a former political adviser who worked for Mr Morrison’s Liberal Party.
Ms Higgins had spoken out about her alleged rape in parliament in 2019 in a case that sparked anger over a culture of sexism and misogyny in Australian politics.
Mr Morrison said he had “immediately accepted” Mr Joyce’s apology, and that he understood “relationships change over time”.
It is not the first time Mr Joyce, one of Australia’s many colourful political figures, has been caught up in controversy.
In 2018, he resigned as leader of the Nationals, the junior government partner, following a politically damaging saga that began with his affair with a former staffer.
Mr Joyce made headlines in 2015 after he spoke about the Australian government’s quarantining and seeking the removal – or possible extermination – of pet dogs brought to Australia by Hollywood stars Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.