politics

Barnaby Joyce is struggling to support two families on a salary of $211,000. This is his uncensored money diary.

Speaking to The Courier Mail, former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has said he’s struggling to make ends meet on his annual salary of $211,250. It was part of his push to increase the Newstart allowance for unemployed Australians, as he said he knows what it’s like to be ‘spread thin’. He’s supporting two families – his current partner Vikki Campion, and their two sons, as well as his ex-wife and youngest daughter. “I’ve got to make ends meet,” he said, emphasising that he’s been killing his own meat, buying the cheapest groceries, turning off his heater – even when it’s very cold – and only having a cup of coffee as a treat. So we imagined what Barnaby Joyce’s weekly money diary really looks like. 

Ahem.

Age: 52

Industry: Politics

Salary: $211,250 a year, plus the odd $150,000 to sell my story to Channel 7

Watch: Barnaby Joyce and Vikki Campion on Channel 7’s Sunday Night. Post continues after video.

Housing: Multiple properties, plus the one I’m renting

Assets: Car, laptop, extensive collection of Akubra hats

Regular expenses:

Rent: $415 a week, plus paying off at least one other home in Tamworth

Netflix: $0, I use Vikki’s account

Internet: $30 per month for my share

Nappies and other… baby accessories: Unsure

Sunday – Day One

It’s a weekend so I’m at home with Vikki and the boys. I have a cold shower and get dressed in the dark, because my salary, which is four times Australia’s median annual income, has me unable to live comfortably in the multi-million dollar home I’m renting.

Yes, last year I was living rent-free in an apartment. Yes, I was earning over $400,000 a year as Deputy Prime Minister.

But things are different now.

I slaughter one of our sheep for lunch. Her name is Molly and butchering her makes ‘lil Sebastian cry. But I do it anyway because we need to eat.

barnaby-joyce-family
Barnaby Joyce and his partner Vikki Campion bathing baby Sebastian in June last year. Sebastian is now 15 months old. Image via Channel 7.
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We each have a tiny cup of rice and a piece of sheep (???), and for dinner, we have tinned spaghetti.

Daily total: $0, minus one sheep

Monday – Day Two

I get up early, and today, I'm giving myself a special treat. A $3.50 cup of coffee from the local cafe. I get one for Vikki too, because she begs me, so I end up spending $7, which is really going to screw with our budget for the week.

It's -21 degrees outside but I don't turn the heater on. It's simply too expensive.

Instead, I break down our bathroom door and smash it into pieces to start a fire. Vikki says it's highly unnecessary, and is annoyed that she will no longer have any privacy when she goes to the toilet. But we're cold, and times are tough.

I go grocery shopping – at the very cheapest supermarket – and buy only the necessities. Bread, milk, sugar, tea, some vegetables to ward off scurvy. I get a Snickers at the checkout but only because I was feeling faint from the physical work of burning my bathroom door. The groceries come to $81. I cry on the way home.

Daily total: $88, minus one bathroom door

Tuesday – Day Three

It's a sitting day in cabinet, but I can't afford to travel from Armidale to Canberra. Not by car. Not by plane. Not by bus. Not by train.

So I walk.

It takes 147 hours.

barnaby joyce
'PETROL IS TOO EXPENSIVE.'
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I'm wearing an elderly relative's jogging shoes because I can't afford my own. They are almost entirely worn down by the time I arrive, so I have to buy a new pair from Payless Shoes. They set me back $30.

Just before I arrive, I get myself a coffee. It costs $4, and I yell at the barista.

My colleagues take pity on me and pay for my meals today. They know I'm doing it tough.

Daily total: $34, minus a pair of second hand shoes

Wednesday – Day Four

I get a call from my ex-wife saying my youngest daughter needs tutoring, and can I contribute? I scoff.

'I CAN HARDLY AFFORD COFFEE,' I scream down the phone. 'I WALKED TO CANBERRA YESTERDAY.'

'Barnaby, I'm pretty sure you're a millionaire,' Natalie responds calmly. We were married for 24 years but she knows nothing of my life.

Vikki calls and says our newborn baby needs nappies. What do they think I am? A cash cow?

It's almost like these children are my... responsibility?

I throw my phone away, sick of the demands of these people who know nothing of my struggle.

In Canberra, I speak to my colleagues about my struggles. They understand. They also know how hard it is to live on as little as $211,250 a year.

barnaby joyce
'Barnaby. I'm so sorry.'
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I rummage through my backpack and find an old muesli bar, which I have for lunch. I go to a fancy dinner tonight and eat 13 courses. I don't pay for it, however. The taxpayer does.

Daily total: $34, minus an iPhone

Thursday – Day Five

I walk home from Canberra, which gives me plenty of time to think. We've been discussing how to support people who are unemployed, so they can a) live, and b) look for paid work.

I nod as I hear their struggles. I, too, have had it tough.

I went to one of Sydney's most prestigious private schools, but nationally, it's sometimes not even listed in the top ten. So I know what it's like to be on the back foot. To not have that automatic advantage when it comes to life's opportunities.

When I arrive home, 'lil Sebastian is looking out the window at another one of our sheep, Wanda. He's giggling.

It's heartbreaking to have to butcher Wanda in front of him, so we can eat her tonight. I wish I didn't have to slaughter our animals. We're down to our last three sheep.

We eat Wanda, with some vegetables from my grocery shop. Vikki grumbles that she'd love some chicken, or beef. And maybe a glass of wine.

I slam my fists on the table and exclaim that I'm doing my best for my family! What more can I do with the $17,000 I'm bringing home per month? Do you think we can afford to NOT eat our sheep?

Daily total: $0, minus another sheep

Friday – Day Six

I wake up knowing something isn't right.

As I get out of bed, I see it. A light on down the hall. VIKKI HAS LEFT THE BATHROOM LIGHT ON AS WELL AS THE FAN AND SHE KNOWS HOW MUCH WE SPEND ON ELECTRICITY.

I stomp around the house turning off lights, and muttering about flushing money down the toilet.

As I'm angrily turning off every possible source of electricity, I accidentally break the toaster. GREAT. How am I going to afford to replace a TOASTER that can cost anywhere from $7.50 to $25?

Hearing my sobs, Vikki wakes up, and asks if we can talk.

'Barnaby,' she says softly. 'I don't think we have to... live like this.'

barnaby
'You're confusing me.'
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'You make plenty of money.'

I roll my eyes, telling her my money is spread thin. I have six children, an ex-wife, lots of properties.

'You were taking in $20,000 a month as Deputy Prime Minister,' she says. 'And you've been very well paid for the last 15 years. I don't think we need to be living in the dark, and the cold.

'You're also a qualified accountant.'

I can't believe this. She just doesn't understand. But to calm her down, I say we can go out for dinner tonight.

At 6pm sharp, we head to McDonald's. I get a Large Double Cheeseburger Meal for $9.85, and Vikki gets a Large Chicken McNugget Meal for $10.10. Do I think she could've opted for the three nugget option, rather than six? Yes. But now isn't the time.

Daily total: $19.95, minus a toaster

Saturday – Day Seven

We've ruined the budget with last night's dinner.

Today I drive an Uber around Armidale, trying to make enough to send the kids to good schools. Yes, 'lil Sebastian already has $150,000 in his trust fund from that time I gave an exclusive interview on Sunday Night, but that's hardly enough for a 15-month-old!

I make $75 from a day of Uber driving, eating a sandwich packed by Vikki for lunch, and stopping for a coffee mid-afternoon ($3.50).

When I get home, I give our sheep Bella a stern look. She knows what's coming.

Sebastian cries.

Daily total: $3.50, minus a final sheep

Weekly total: $179.45

Reflection: Everyone's annoyed at me because I said I can relate to the people on Newstart – but I can! Earning $211,250 a year is pretty much like earning nothing. In fact, I might apply for Newstart. Or at least some scheme to supplement my income.

Maybe then I can stop slaughtering my sheep.

And maybe, just maybe, I can afford a new toaster.

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