PM uses fine print to get Barnaby off the hook over baby mama's job

Barnaby Joyce
Barnaby Joyce has recently come under fire for his affair with a member of his staff.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s office has denied claims that Barnaby Joyce breached the ministerial code of conduct after claims he got his now-girlfriend Vikki Campion two sweet new jobs with his politician mates.

The Daily Telegraph and other newspapers had raised questions over the propriety of Campion being given jobs in Senator Matt Canavan and MP Damian Drum’s offices – moves the media outlets implied were necessitated by the fuss created by Joyce’s alleged extramarital affair with Campion while she worked in his own office.

Campion, who is now reportedly pregnant with the deputy prime minister’s baby, was moved from Joyce’s office to that of Canavan’s, and then on to Drum’s office after she lost her role as senior adviser to Canavan when he stepped down amid the citizenship scandal. She is no longer employed by the government.

News of Joyce’s relationship with Campion broke on last Wednesday, with the Daily Telegraph reporting the pair were having a child together and were “madly in love”. The paper published a photo of Campion with a baby bump and noted that the pair were now living together. Reports heavily implied that Joyce had conducted an affair with Campion behind the back of his wife of 24 years – allegations Natalie Joyce did nothing to downplay in a statement last week.

“I understand that this has been going on for many months and started when she was a paid employee,” Mrs Joyce said. The alleged affair would explain Joyce’s announcement in December that he had separated from his wife and his comments about not pretending “to be any saint or anything like that”. 

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Staunch Christian Joyce hasn’t admitted cheating on his wife with his office staffer, and claimed his privacy was being invaded by the media with its interest in his new relationship.

In response to allegations of impropriety over Campion’s jobs, however, a spokesman for Malcolm Turnbull said that Joyce did not breach the ministerial code of conduct because “Ms Campion was not his partner at the time of the staff appointments”.  In other words, the fine print of the code of conduct appears to condone finding plum government jobs for one’s extramarital liaison, as long as one is not in a official relationship with said mistress.

“The prime minister was not aware of the relationship” when Campion was offered jobs at the offices of Senator Canavan and Damian Drum, Turnbull’s spokesman added.

According to Section 2.23 of the code of ministerial conduct, a minister’s “close relatives and partners are not to be appointed to positions in their ministerial or electorate offices”, and they can’t be employed in the offices of member of the government without “express approval” from the prime minister.

The PM’s office says that Campion and Joyce were not what constitutes “partners” at the time she received the appointments in 2017. While the PM’s office said Turnbull didn’t know about the pair’s relationship, many news sources have said that the alleged affair was common knowledge throughout the government.

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The Sydney Morning Herald wrote that Campion left Joyce’s office in April 2017 when their affair began creating “tensions in the office”.

Electoral rival Tony Windsor published a series of damaging tweets alluding untoward behaviour by Joyce in October,  comparing Joyce to Hollywood sex pest Harvey Weinstein. At the same time, both the Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun reported on the rumours of an affair with a staffer.

According to The Australian, Joyce is currently living rent-free with his lover in an Armidale townhouse owned by a multi-millionaire ­businessman Greg ­Maguire.  Joyce and Campion’s baby is reported to be due around Joyce’s 51st birthday in April.

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What is your definition of ‘partner’? Does this sound like an easy get-out clause for inappropriate behaviour?

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