Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has called for the ban on spouses working for parliamentarians to be lifted, claiming it places too much restriction on families.
The Nationals MP hit out at the ban, which was introduced by Tony Abbott in 2013, and claimed that husbands and wives should be allowed to work side-by-side as they know and understand each other better than regular staff.
Speaking exclusively to The Courier Mail’s QWeekend magazine, Joyce admitted he made the mistake of not spending enough time with his family when married to ex-wife Natalie and said lifting the ban would make it easier for politicians to maintain healthy relationships with their spouses.
“[Your loved one is] probably one of the best persons working for you because she more than anyone understands your diary, understands kids birthdays, anniversaries. Understands all the things you’ve got to be a part of if you want to stay married,” he told the publication.
The politician went on to say how stressful the job can be and that it does take its toll on the whole family when they are not in close proximity.
“It shouldn’t matter what the public think. They should be doing everything they can to have their partners down here [in Canberra] basically whenever they want to be here,” he told QWeekend.
Joyce’s comments have raised a few eyebrows given his relationship with his former staffer Vikki Campion, who is the mother of his seven-month-old son, Sebastian.
Joyce revealed in December last year that he had separated from Natalie, his wife of 20 years and the mother of his four daughters. But it was revealed just two months later that he had been conducting a lengthly affair with Campion, who was by then pregnant with their son.
Many Aussies took to social media following Joyce’s new comments to QWeekend to vent their frustration, with many criticising the politician.
“Sounds like the new Mrs Joyce doesn’t want to leave him alone with staffers, can’t think why…” one person wrote on Twitter.
“Is the new wife a bit scared you’ll have an affair on her? And wants to keep tabs,” another added.
However, despite Joyce’s attempt to remove the ban, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed on Channel Seven’s Sunrise that it will not happen.
“No we’ve got no plans to do that,” he said on the morning show. “The arrangement has been in place for five years, a bit more than that, so we’ve got no plans for that.”
After Joyce’s affair with Campion came to light, then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull instituted a ban on ministers engaging in sexual relationships with their direct employees. However, Joyce made no mention of that particular rule in his chat with QWeekend.