An inquiry into the travel expenses of former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and his partner Vikki Campion has found that the pair did not breach any parliamentary travel rules, and actually awarded Campion an outstanding sum of almost $1,000.
The new mum received a total of $978.36 following an audit by the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority (IPEA) which cleared the couple of any misuse of taxpayer cash, despite there being a “substantial” spike in the number of nights of travel allowance that the National’s pollie claimed for compared to previous years.
The IPEA looked into 25 travel expense claims submitted by Campion and found slight discrepancies with just two of those, however the 33-year-old former journalist had to repay a sum of $100.96 to cover two personal taxi fares during a trip from Gladstone to Canberra in April 2017.
The IPEA report into Campion reads: “Of the 25 trips identified, 17 did not require additional follow up as information that addressed the threshold issues was available. The eight outstanding trips required further cross referencing from a range of sources including third parties, publicly available information, and other relevant documents such as travel manifests.
“On many occasions, Ms Campion was travelling in the company of other staff from Mr Joyce’s office. The presence of other staff supports the assessment that the travel related to official business. Of the eight outstanding trips, two trips were identified to have further anomalies, one resulting in a small reimbursement from Ms Campion and the other in a payment to her.”
The inquiry was launched in February after the news broke that Joyce was expecting a baby with his former staffer, despite still being married to his wife, and the mother of his four daughters, Natalie Joyce whom he separated from the previous December.
Joyce resigned as Deputy PM and leader of the National Party of Australia on February 22 and said he hoped that the move would serve as a “circuit breaker”, following weeks of press attention, “for Vikki, for my unborn child, my daughters, and for Nat”.
The couple welcomed their son Sebastian Curtis Scott Joyce in April and the proud parents debuted the newborn during a special episode of Channel Seven’s current affairs show Sunday Night, as they gave their first televised interview since news of the scandal broke.
However the drama didn’t end there as the TV chat sparked outrage among Joyce’s fellow politicians and the public after it was revealed that the pair were paid a whopping $150,000 for the interview, which they stated has been paid into a trust fund for their son.
Joyce was also cleared of any wrongdoing in relation to taxpayer funded expenses, however the 51-year-old voluntarily repaid $779.54 to the Department of Finance in relation to a trip to Canberra from the Sunshine Coast, where he had been enjoying a family holiday, in January last year.
The IPEA said Joyce was recalled to Canberra for urgent ministerial business in January 2017 and travelled by special-purpose aircraft. He then used a hire car to return to the holiday the following day, however Joyce said he repaid the sum because he was only legally entitled to return to his home base, in Tamworth, and not the family holiday as he had done.