It’s been a rough ride for Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce over the past few weeks and it doesn’t look to be getting easier anytime soon.
The National leader is facing calls for his resignation from within his own party and now appears to have lost the support of the Prime Minister, who refused to endorse him when asked by reporters in Washington on Thursday.
Malcolm Turnbull is in the US for meetings with President Donald Trump to discuss Australian-US ties and future trade agreements, but couldn’t dodge questions about the torrid state of his ministerial Cabinet at home.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that when asked if he still supported Joyce as leader of the National Party, the PM side-stepped the question.
“The leadership of the National Party is a matter for the National Party,” he told reporters in the US capital.
It comes as Joyce faces fresh allegations of sexual harassment. The ABC reports a West Australian women has accused Joyce of harassment, but he has vehemently denied the claim, calling it “spurious and defamatory”.
Joyce has been on the offence since news broke of his affair with his former staffer, Vikki Campion, who is now pregnant with his child.
Despite initially calling for privacy, the Deputy PM and Campion gave an intimate interview to The Sydney Morning Herald this week in which they allowed photographers into their Sydney home and defended their actions.
“This should be a very simple story – a bloke whose marriage broke down is in a relationship with another person and they are having a child. Now it seems to have gone into some sort of morality discussion. That’s between me and my God. I can understand how Natalie can be angry, absolutely, but how it’s other people’s business, I don’t know,” he told SMH reporter James Massola.
He also admitted Turnbull had never asked him about the affair before it became public and said he would have kept it secret even if he had.
“He never asked any direct questions and to be honest, if I believed it was private, I wouldn’t have told him either,” Joyce said. “If I think something is private and not in breach of the code, I don’t think it’s other people’s business.”
The new couple’s relationship became public in early February, when the Daily Telegraph published a full-page photo of a pregnant Campion crossing a Sydney street. They have since faced questions over whether taxpayer funds were used to enable their affair, particularly in relation to travel allowances and Campion’s high-paying jobs in two ministers’ offices after leaving Joyce’s staff.
Joyce helped Campion obtain jobs with Nationals MPs Matt Canavan and Damian Drum for which she was paid $138,000 and $135,000 respectively.
Despite the unwanted attention, the Deputy PM says he just wants to be left to enjoy his new relationship and care for his unborn son.
“I don’t want our child to grow up as some sort of public display,” he said. I” have to stop it from the start. It’s a fact we are having a child, it’s a fact it’s a boy, it’s not more or less loved than any of my other children.”