AUSTRALIA’S Deputy Prime Minister is facing pressure to resign after it became public that a former staffer is pregnant with his child.
The estranged wife of Barnaby Joyce – leader of the Nationals Party segment of the ruling Liberal-National Coalition and a professed social conservative – confirmed last week that he had been conducting an extramarital affair with his former press secretary Vikki Campion.
It has raised concerns Joyce breached laws regarding parliamentary conduct by giving her two highly paid, taxpayer-funded government positions.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Tuesday that Joyce spent 50 nights in the national capital Canberra last year at times when parliament wasn’t sitting – more than any other cabinet minister. He is reportedly living with Campion in an apartment in Armidale provided rent-free by a local millionaire.
— Christopher Dore (@wrongdorey) February 13, 2018
Many have also pointed out the hypocrisy of his conduct, given he has long campaigned for “family values” and was a staunch opponent of the introduction of same sex marriage in Australia.
After Campion’s pregnancy made front page news last Wednesday, Joyce told ABC News that the breakdown of his marriage was “one of the greatest failures of my life”. He has expressed that he is “deeply sorry” for the hurt it has caused his family and Campion.
The Deputy PM’s wife of 24 years Natalie Joyce released a statement in which she said: “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. This situation is devastating on many fronts,” she said.
Listen – Barnaby Joyce’s office planned to send out Christmas cards on his behalf late last year, featuring his wife and children, until his wife told them where they could stick that idea. pic.twitter.com/adRRvTThEX
— BenFordham (@BenFordham) February 13, 2018
A practicing Catholic, Barnaby Joyce had for many years campaigned for “traditional marriage” against advocates of marriage equality. Last year, Australia legalised gay marriage after more than 60 percent of the population voted in favour of changing the definition of marriage.
A column in the Sydney Morning Herald also noted that back in 2006, Joyce had opposed the introduction of government-funded vaccines for women against the human papilloma virus (HPV) to prevent cervical cancer later in life.
To be effective, it requires immunisation prior to women becoming sexually active. Joyce was quoted as saying: “There might be an overwhelming backlash from people saying, ‘Don’t you dare put something out there that gives my 12-year-old daughter a licence to be promiscuous’.”
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The scandal has been damaging for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government, which has only a one seat majority in parliament. Allegations have now also emerged that Joyce “pinched a woman’s bottom” while he was intoxicated at an awards ceremony in 2011, a claim he has denied.
Barnaby Joyce furiously trying to save his political career pic.twitter.com/L8LL6K9rwr
— Osman Faruqi (@oz_f) February 14, 2018
Netizens have widely mocked the Deputy PM, deeming him the “Beetrooter” – a reference to his often flushed face. Satirical publication The Betoota Advocate has published a number of articles lampooning Joyce, including one entitled “Barnaby Joyce Rejects New Sex Icon Status”.
“Every political career has a time of trial,” Joyce reportedly told his colleagues on Tuesday. He has insisted his career can endure the controversy.
High profile radio presenter Patricia Karvelas tweeted on Monday: “I cannot find anyone in Govt who really thinks Barnaby Joyce will survive the next few days”.