Dozens of voices have weighed in on news of Barnaby Joyce’s relationship with his pregnant 33-year-old former staffer Vikki Campion today. Fellow MPs, columnists, voters, even the Deputy Prime Minister’s estranged wife, Natalie, have all spoken their peace on the revelations published this morning by The Daily Telegraph.
Tonight, it was Joyce’s turn.
During an interview on ABC’s 7.30 program, the 50-year-old National Party leader spoke for the first time about Campion, with whom he is expecting his fifth child in April, and the breakdown of his 24-year marriage.
“My relationship coming apart, I don’t think makes me terribly unusual. In fact, it puts me in the same box as about 40 per cent to 50 per cent of other marriages,” Joyce said. “I am not for one minute saying that that is an admirable trait – it’s obviously it’s incredibly painful for everybody involved. I can say, quite openly, it’s probably one of the greatest failures of my life.”
The Member for New England refused to be drawn on detail regarding his new relationship, telling host Leigh Sales it was “a private matter”.
“I can’t quite fathom why basically a pregnant lady walking across the road deserves a front page. I don’t know what the political purpose is to that,” he said. “I don’t think it helps my family, I don’t think it helps anybody in the future to start making this a public discussion. As much as I can I will keep private matters private.”
Much criticism of Joyce’s new relationship centered around the conservative MP’s opposition to same-sex marriage, which he repeatedly slated as a threat to “traditional families”. But during tonight’s interview, Joyce separated the two.
“Just because my relationship didn’t work it doesn’t mean I changed what I think. On that instance I failed, OK. I’ll be up front I failed on that one, but I am not going to say therefore just because I failed I’m going to completely change my views and definition.
“I’m also, like other people, incredibly hurt that private issues get dragged into the public arena. I mean, this is – who on any street, in any program, would want their private life just thrown out there for everybody to, you know, be seen? I think most people would say, no, those things should stay in the realm of your private business.”
Jessie and Mia discuss all things Barnaby Joyce – including his new partner, his wife’s comments and the hypocrisy of it all. (Post continues below.)
In the wake of Wednesday morning’s story, multiple media outlets reported that the relationship between Joyce and Campion had long been an “open secret” in Canberra. Though, according to Fairfax, “until now, no one, within the press gallery or outside it, could firm them up to a publishable standard”.
In a statement to The Australian, Joyce’s wife, Natalie, said she understood the affair “has been going on for many months and started when [Campion] was a paid employee”.
“The situation is devastating, 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 told The Daily Telegraph earlier on Wednesday.
Joyce confirmed to parliament in December that he had split from his wife, saying only, “I acknowledge that I’m currently separated, so that’s on the record.”
Campion, a journalist and former Deputy Chief of Staff at The Daily Telegraph, worked as Joyce’s media advisor before she left his office in April last year.
She then moved into a more senior role with Resources Minister Matt Canavan, before moving once again, joining the office Nationals chief parliamentary whip Damian Drum. She lost her job when Drum moved to the Deputy Prime Minster’s office at the end of last year.
Campion is yet to comment on her relationship with Joyce.