“I don’t come to this debate pretending to be any form of saint or anything like that, but I do believe that the current definition of marriage which has stood the test of time – half of them fail, I acknowledge that I’m currently separated, so that’s on the record – it is a special relationship between a man and a woman predominately for the purpose – if you are so lucky – to bring children into the world.”
Such were the words of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce during the same-sex marriage debate in December last year. The 50-year-old had put two absolutes on the record: That his marriage was over, and he didn’t believe in marriage equality.
Of course, many members of the press gallery – and, in truth, the public too – knew both of these things already. Rumours regarding the state of Joyce’s marriage had been circulating for some months by that point.
On Wednesday, The Daily Telegraph broke what has been widely regarded as Canberra’s worst kept secret: Joyce is expecting a baby with his former staffer, 33-year-old Vikki Campion. It’s believed the two are now living together and the baby is due in April.
So why did it take so long for the story to surface? In actual fact, why did the story surface? And who is left in its wake, while Joyce takes up his new life with his partner?
Well, in order to go there, we should probably go right back to the start.
As a student, Joyce attended the University of New England and majored in accountancy. According to a 2016 profile of the politician in the Good Weekend, he was “an enthusiastic brawler and a rugby player”, brash in his pursuit of future wife Natalie.
In May 2017, a piece in the Weekend Australian detailed their first meeting, where a young Senator Joyce sat in a ute at a car rally for O Week, looked at his future wife and said, “You’ll do.”
For whatever reason – perhaps irreverent charm – the line worked. The two were married in 1993 and went on to have four daughters: Bridgette, 20, Julia, 19, Caroline, 17, and Odette, 15.
Such is the nature of politics, the marriage between family life and public office was a tumultuous one. In 2017, Natalie told the Weekend Australian their youngest, Odette, has never known “anything but politics”.
“Every time he’d come home she actually wouldn’t go near him because he hadn’t been home,” she recalled of Odette’s early years. “It’s taken a long time to get that father-daughter rapport.”
“In the end they give up on you. They just don’t think you’re going to be there,” Senator Joyce added of the strain.
At the time of the Weekend Australian interview – where his daughters and then-wife were interviewed and spoke of their husband and father – it’s now alleged, by his ex-wife at least, that Barnaby Joyce was having an affair with his media advisor.
Vikki Campion, 33, worked as Mr Joyce’s media advisor before she left his office in April last year, a month before the Weekend Australian piece on Joyce and his family was published. She 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 – yes, we’re coming full circle – to the Deputy Prime Minster’s office at the end of last year.