Barnaby Joyce charged taxpayers more than $15,000 for overnight stays in Canberra last year when parliament wasn’t even sitting. Fairfax media reports the deputy prime minister used his government-mandated travel allowance 50 times during the first nine months of 2017, more than any other senior cabinet minister.
The publisher says they’ve viewed expense records that show Joyce claimed “$16,690 in travel allowance for out-of-session nights in the nation’s capital between January 1 and September 30, 2017”.
Joyce’s office has defended the expense claims, pointing out that none of his regional electorates — Tamworth and Armidale — have permanent commonwealth offices. However, Tamworth, Joyce’s home base last year, is only a 2.5-hour flight from Canberra, and as Deputy PM he has access to government VIP charter flights.
The cost of the charter flights in comparison to a night’s worth of travel allowance is not known. As Deputy PM, Joyce was entitled to claim $276 per night for official business. He was working as acting Prime Minister for 10 of the 50 nights out-of-session nights he claimed, which entitled him to $565 per night.
The revelation is a sharp blow to the head in what has already been a nightmare week for the Nationals Leader. Last week, the Daily Telegraph revealed Joyce’s former staffer Vikki Campion was pregnant with his child. Campion fell pregnant while the pair were conducting an affair last year.
On Tuesday, Joyce finally caved to pressure and apologised to his wife and his girlfriend.
He confirmed that Campion was currently his partner, however, he insisted she was not his partner while working in his office, nor when she was in the offices of Senator Matt Canavan. He skated around the issue of whether they were partners when she was working for MP Damian Drum, just noting in his comments that Drum “was not a minister” at the time Campion worked for him.
“I’d like to say to [wife] Natalie how deeply sorry I am for all the hurt this has caused, to my girls how deeply sorry I am for all the hurt that it has caused them … [and] to Vikki Campion how deeply sorry I am that she has been dragged in to this,” he said, according to the Daily Telegraph‘s report.
It comes after Natalie issued a scathing retort to her husband’s actions, telling The Australian she was “devastated”.
“I am deeply saddened by the news that my husband is now having a child with a former staff member. I understand that this has been going on for many months and started when she was a paid employee,” she said. She added that the situation is “devastating on many fronts” and mentioned the former couple’s four daughters, who “feel hurt” by their father’s actions.
She said she was particularly hurt after inviting Campion into her home throughout the months she was employed by her husband, only to be disappointed by her husband and his staff members behaviour.
Joyce announced in December he and Natalie had separated, but didn’t not go into details as to why. Campion’s baby is due in April.
While the Deputy PM has remained steadfast in his commitment to his job, numerous reports from Canberra say his colleagues are beginning to doubt he will survive the scandal. Fairfax reported that Nationals MPs believe it is only a matter of time until he resigns and moves to the backbench.