Politics

Junk Explained: Barnaby Joyce Is About To Have A Very, Very Bad Week

We might be getting a new Deputy Prime Minister soon.

It’s never a good sign when a politician has the word “embattled” affixed to their name, but that’s exactly where Barnaby Joyce finds himself right now.

The Deputy Prime Minister is back in Canberra today, where he’ll be facing a bunch of questions about his conduct as he carried out an affair with a former staffer, who is now pregnant, which led to the end of his 24-year marriage.

If you’ve somehow missed all the news, here’s what happened, and what’s likely to happen next:

The Affair

It was revealed last week that Joyce, 50, is expecting a baby with his former staffer, Vikki Campion, 33. The affair had been the talk of Canberra, and Joyce’s seat of New England, for months, with all sorts of crazy rumours circulating.

Once it was finally confirmed on the front page of the Daily Telegraph last week, the dam wall burst, and suddenly the whole country was talking about it. Joyce tried to shut it all down, saying his private life was nobody’s business, but his wife, Natalie, was having none of it, releasing a heartbreaking statement:

“This situation is devastating on many fronts. For my girls, who are affected by the family breakdown, and for me as a wife of 24 years, who placed my own career on hold to support Barnaby through his political life,” she said.

“Our family life has had to be shared during Barnaby’s political career and it was with trust that we let campaign and office staff into our homes and into our lives.

“Naturally we also feel deceived and hurt by the actions of Barnaby and the staff member involved.”

Plenty of people also pointed out Joyce’s hypocrisy. He’s always presented himself as a salt-of-the-earth, conservative, family man, and he campaigned hard against marriage equality.

That makes his private life fair game. But that’s not all…

The Jobs

It’s been widely reported that the ongoing affair between Joyce and Campion caused a lot of tension in Joyce’s office. Eventually Campion left the office, reportedly at the urging of the Prime Minister’s office, to take up a new role in the office of close Joyce ally Senator Matt Canavan.

The role was newly created when Campion began there, and hadn’t been publicly advertised. When Canavan stepped down from the ministry during the dual citizenship crisis, Campion once again moved on — this time to the office of Chief Nationals Whip Damian Drum, despite Drum already having a media adviser. That role was also unadvertised.

There’s no suggestion that Campion wasn’t qualified for the roles. Both roles were approved by the Prime Minister’s office.

The appointments have led to a bunch of questions. Mainly, was any public money spent inappropriately? Were these jobs created solely to move Campion out of Joyce’s office because the relationship was inappropriate? What did the Prime Minister know about the relationship, and when?

Joyce has denied that any taxpayer funds were spent inappropriately, but you can bet every major media organisation in the country is lodging freedom of information requests to double check on that.

They’ll be looking especially hard at Joyce’s travel records to make sure taxpayers didn’t fund the clandestine affair in any way. Which brings us to…

Barnaby’s Not Good, Very Bad Week

Joyce’s grip on the leadership of the Nationals, and therefore the deputy prime ministership, is looking pretty shaky.

Last night, Channel 9 reported some government MPs were urging Malcolm Turnbull to step in and ask for Joyce’s resignation, saying his position had become “untenable”. Today, News Corp and Fairfax carry similar reports as rural MPs say they’re facing “white hot anger” from their conservative electorates over the issue.

This morning, influential Queensland Nationals Senator John Williams said he couldn’t be sure if Joyce would remain as party leader.

“I had a good chat to Barnaby yesterday — he’s going OK but to be frank he is under a lot of pressure, no doubt,” Senator Williams said. “Let’s see how all the travel things come out and so on, I just don’t know.”

“I don’t know if he has done anything wrong by the law of the Parliament, by the taxpayers, I can’t judge on that. So how can I make an opinion when I simply don’t know?”

That’s a very, very bad sign for Joyce, and it’s only Monday morning. It could be a long week for the Deputy Prime Minister.