“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.
In October last year, in the lead up to the New England by-election where Joyce fought to re-gain his seat, the media did their very best to report the story of the affair through carefully placed innuendo.
“Talk of high profile politician affair with staffer sweeps around parliament,” was one in the Herald Sun at the same time.
The Daily Mail had their own: "Rumour of 'well-known politician’s eight-month affair with Parliament House staffer' sets tongues wagging among Canberra's elite."
Join the dots, and the public had their story. Just not in so many words.
Reddit threads discussed the story, the depths of Twitter had a handle on the news and the small-scale website Independent Australia had their own take. ("Why Barnaby Joyce’s private life is a matter of public interest.")
Despite the floating but immaterial innuendo, Joyce won his by-election in December, and two days later, made public the demise of his marriage in espousing his opposition to same-sex marriage.
Some two months later, here we are: With reports of his affair, his new relationship and a baby on the way.
After months of laying low from from the glare of the public eye, Natalie Joyce spoke publicly on Wednesday morning about the breakdown of her marriage.
“I am deeply saddened by the news that my husband has been having an affair and is now having a child with a former staff member. I understand that this affair has been going on for many months and started when she was a paid employee,” she told The Australian.
“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.
LISTEN: Political Journalist Annabel Crabb puts forward the case for communal bathrooms in Parliament House. Post continues after audio.
“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."
Ensuing debate has gone a few ways: Why did it take so long for the story to be made public? Why was it made public at all?
Caroline Overington wrote for The Australian on Wednesday, that "it may well be that people weren’t sure about the details".
"Maybe some reporters couldn’t firm it up, and obviously the pregnancy was then in its early stages, requiring delicacy in reporting; and maybe there was this idea that it’s his private life, and therefore not in the public interest."
Perhaps all The Daily Telegraph sought was a photo of Ms Campion to prove the point they've held all along.
However, in defending her decision to publish, National Political editor Sharri Markson told Sam Arymtage on Sunrise on Wednesday she felt those who were criticising the paper for running the story - in so far that it wasn't in the "public interest" - were largely a group of journalists who she felt "missed the story".
"I don't think there are any punters out there today who are saying, I wish I didn't know this story. I wish the Daily Telegraph had suppressed the information.
"People feel they have a right to know this information."
Regardless, the story is public and Barnaby's Joyce's private life is now fodder for public consumption.
As Malcolm Farr penned for news.com.au on Wednesday morning, the narrative to watch now is Joyce's ability to recover from the scandal.
"If he can’t get a touch of Love Actually into his story he risks being condemned by the perception it is just a sordid and tacky tale of infidelity," Farr wrote.
For now, only time will tell.