BARN­ABY’S BABY

Aban­don­ing his fam­ily for love is not play­ing out well in the elec­torate, writes DANIELLE GUS­MAROLI

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - NEWS -

Barn­aby Joyce was more ruddy-faced than usual dur­ing the dusty New Eng­land by-elec­tion. The nor­mally rum­bus­tious Deputy Prime Min­is­ter had hit the cam­paign trail hard, fo­cused on re­claim­ing his seat af­ter be­ing ousted in a High Court de­ci­sion over his New Zealand cit­i­zen­ship.

Pri­vately, and per­haps more cru­cially, the re­al­ity was that the stress com­pounded by the tur­moil in his com­pli­cated per­sonal life was show­ing amid ru­mours he had quit the mar­i­tal home in Loomberah, south of Tam­worth, and was liv­ing on his par­ents’ cat­tle and sheep farm near Wool­brook, about an hour’s drive to the north­east.

Joyce had come un­der in­tense me­dia scru­tiny, know­ing he was risk­ing his ca­reer over sex and was bat­tling to keep his frac­tured pri­vate life un­der his sig­na­ture Akubra.

The Joyce women – his wife Natalie and daugh­ters Brid­gette, Ju­lia, Caro­line and Odette, in their teens and twen­ties – had al­ways ral­lied around the fam­ily pa­tri­arch, sup­port­ing him in pre­vi­ous elec­tions. But this time they were nowhere to be seen as the cam­paign rolled on and Joyce was dogged by whis­pers of an ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fair.

Joyce, 50, it was whis­pered along the cor­ri­dors of power, had turned his back on his fam­ily af­ter fall­ing “madly in love” with a for­mer mem­ber of staff, Vikki Cam­pion, 33.

In­trigu­ingly, he was ac­com­pa­nied by his mother as he cast his vote – not the wife who had gamely posed for pic­tures in pre­vi­ous bal­lots – and was sworn in in De­cem­ber af­ter win­ning the vote.

Days later, the Na­tion­als leader dropped a bomb­shell, us­ing the par­lia­men­tary de­bate on same-sex mar­riage to con­firm he was no longer with Natalie, his wife of 24 years.

“I don’t come to this de­bate pre­tend­ing to be any form of saint but I do be­lieve in the cur­rent def­i­ni­tion of mar­riage, which has stood the test of time,” he said.

“I ac­knowl­edge that I’m cur­rently separated, so that’s on the record.”

This week the se­nior Turn­bull gov­ern­ment min­is­ter was forced to con­fess to the new re­la­tion­ship as a pho­to­graph of his now vis­i­bly preg­nant girl­friend was pub­lished, end­ing months of whis­per­ing cam­paigns and vi­cious Twit­ter smears.

Not only had he in­deed split from his wife, he had set up home with the much younger wo­man who had been en­trusted into the fam­ily cir­cle and the two were ex­pect­ing a child in April. Reve­la­tion of the af­fair was all the more hurt­ful to his wife since Cam­pion had be­come a fam­ily friend through work­ing with Joyce, fre­quently vis­it­ing the mar­i­tal home and be­com­ing Face­book friends with his daugh­ters.

Mrs Joyce swiftly is­sued a sting­ing re­buke the morn­ing the ro­mance made head­lines, say­ing she felt “de­ceived” and “hurt” by the ac­tions of the man she had stood by for more than two decades.

“I’m deeply sad­dened that my hus­band is now hav­ing a child with a for­mer staffer,” she said in a state­ment.

“I un­der­stand this af­fair has been go­ing on for months and started when she was a paid em­ployee.

“The sit­u­a­tion is dev­as­tat­ing on many fronts – for my girls, who are af­fected by the fam­ily break­down, and for me as a wife of more than 24 years, who placed my ca­reer on hold to sup­port Barn­aby through his po­lit­i­cal life,” she said.

“Nat­u­rally, we also feel de­ceived and hurt by the ac­tions of Barn­aby and the staff mem­ber in­volved.”

While Mrs Joyce and her daugh­ters face the ig­nominy of their shat­tered lives be­ing played out, due to the ac­tions of her es­tranged hus­band, a con­ser­va­tive who cam­paigned on fam­ily val­ues in New Eng­land and op­posed to same-sex mar­riage, the gov­ern­ment and La­bor MPs have backed Mr Joyce’s claim that his per­sonal life should be pri­vate.

Prime Min­is­ter Malcolm Turn­bull won’t be drawn on the sex scan­dal that has rocked his gov­ern­ment, say­ing only, “It’s a tough and dis­tress­ing episode ...

“Adults can con­duct their re­la­tion­ships – if it’s con­sen­sual, re­spect­ful – that’s their right,” Mr Turn­bull said.

The em­bat­tled Na­tion­als leader in­stead launched his own dam­age-lim­i­ta­tion ex­er­cise this week in an in­ter­view with the ABC in which he de­scribed the col­lapse of his mar­riage as “one of the great­est fail­ures” of his life and a “tu­mul­tuous time”.

“My re­la­tion­ship com­ing apart, I don’t think makes me ter­ri­bly un­usual,” he said.

“In fact, it puts me in the same box as about 40 to 50 per cent of other mar­riages.

“I am not for one minute say­ing that that is an ad­mirable trait.

“I’m not proud of it, but that is, that is — you know, in essence, the hu­man­ity of who we are, OK? And af­ter that, it is a pri­vate is­sue.”

No one sug­gests Ms Cam­pion, who was de­lib­er­ately trans­ferred out of Mr Joyce’s of­fice nearly a year ago, was a po­lit­i­cal mover-and-shaker but the af­fair has shone the spot­light on her ca­reer too.

The 33-year-old had worked qui­etly be­hind the scenes for sev­eral Na­tional Party politi­cians be­fore tak­ing on her role as a me­dia ad­viser to the Deputy Prime Min­is­ter.

She was em­ployed in his of­fice from May 2016 un­til May last year, when they grew close, be­fore mov­ing to the of­fice of Re­sources Min­is­ter Matt Cana­van.

Ms Cam­pion had pre­vi­ously worked as a se­nior ad­viser to NSW Po­lice Min­is­ter Troy Grant when the Dubbo MP was deputy premier and was an ad­viser to Rac­ing Min­is­ter Paul Toole when the Bathurst MP had the lo­cal gov­ern­ment port­fo­lio.

Be­fore be­com­ing a po­lit­i­cal staffer, Ms Cam­pion worked for eight years as a jour­nal­ist with Syd­ney’s Daily Tele­graph un­til July 2014.

Months be­fore news cir­cu­lated she was preg­nant, she be­gan with­draw­ing from the pub­lic eye, delet­ing so­cial me­dia ac­counts. Her ad­dress has been omit­ted from the elec­toral roll.

“She’s been a jour­nal­ist and for her she’s hop­ing once the dust set­tles it’ll no longer be news,” an in­sider said.

No doubt the up­heaval of Mr Joyce’s per­sonal life will af­fect his po­lit­i­cal per­for­mance as he man­ages the back­lash of his ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties.

In his home­town of Tam­worth, a gra­zier, hay farmer and a sin­gle mother say the Na­tion­als leader has let down the elec­torate.

“Good luck to him. Love is an ad­dic­tion, like drugs — but a politi­cian should live by the rules he preaches,” said gra­zier Ge­orge Masters, 78.

“His pri­vate life should mir­ror his pub­lic one.

“He should be set­ting an ex­am­ple, not let­ting us down. It’s pure dou­ble stan­dards.”

Tam­worth Mayor Col Mur­ray re­frained from speak­ing his mind, say­ing: “I can’t re­ally say what I think — his pri­vate life is his pri­vate life. He per­formed well as a mem­ber for New Eng­land.”

Farm hand Ja­son Tout, 41, said: “I voted for him in last year’s by-elec­tion but never again.

“I feel sorry for his wife, Natalie. She’s a lovely wo­man and now has to pick up the pieces in pub­lic.

“He’s a liar and hyp­ocrite but most politi­cians are.”

Mother of one Soleil Fim­lay, 20, said she felt “deeply dis­ap­pointed” by Joyce’s af­fair, say­ing she re­gret­ted vot­ing for him in the De­cem­ber by-elec­tion.

“He should have stayed faith­ful to his wife,” she said, cradling her one-year-old son Rhy­der.

“I voted for him in the by­elec­tion but I’d never waste a vote on him again. He’s split up the fam­ily and his daugh­ters will be af­fected by what he’s done for­ever.”

Whether the me­dia pub­lic­ity about the af­fair would have made such a dif­fer­ence in New Eng­land is dif­fi­cult to say.

While Mr Joyce has been a pro­moter of fam­ily val­ues, it has not been a hard-line cru­sade.

I FEEL SORRY FOR HIS WIFE, NATALIE. SHE’S A LOVELY WO­MAN AND NOW HAS TO PICK UP THE PIECES IN PUB­LIC. HE’S A LIAR AND HYP­OCRITE

FARM HAND JA­SON TOUT

Pic­ture: PETER LORIMER

Barn­aby Joyce in sun­nier times, in­spect­ing a wheat crop near Tam­worth.

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