Barnaby Joyce claims an affair with a former staffer that ended his 24-year marriage and destroyed his reputation as one of Australia’s most influential politicians was already well-known before he was re-elected during the New England by-election.
In August, Mr Joyce revealed he was a dual NZ citizen through his father, who was born in the country, however he did not stand down from his portfolio and continued to cast his vote in the House of Representatives.
It wasn’t until the end of October that Mr Joyce, along with four other Senators, were ruled ineligible by the High Court to be in parliament, meaning they would all need to recontest their seats in a series of by-elections.
On December 2, Mr Joyce was re-elected in the by-election in New England – but his wife Natalie was nowhere to be seen when the politician cast his vote nor when he claimed victory.
Mr Joyce, who later stood down as leader of the National Party and deputy prime minister, is confident he would have won even if News Corp had broken the story of his affair and relationship with Vikki Campion prior to the by-election.
“We got 65 percent of the primary,” he told nine.com.au.
“Most people already knew. I was told by a lady that she knew all about my life, I’d never met her before, and if a complete stranger knows about your life, you’ve got a pretty good idea most people do.”
News of the affair didn’t break until February when News Corp’s Daily Telegraph splashed a photo of Mr Joyce’s former staffer Ms Campion, heavily pregnant, under the headline “Bundle of Joyce”.
The story came after Mr Joyce first publicly acknowledged his marriage had failed during a speech to parliament during the same-sex marriage debate.
“I don’t come to this debate pretending to be any form of a saint but I do believe the current definition of marriage has stood the test of time I acknowledge that I’m currently separated so that’s on the record,” he said in December after the by-election in New England which led to his return to parliament following the dual citizenship scandal.
Mr Joyce is standing by his view that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
The embattled politician rejected the idea that campaigning against same-sex marriage on religious grounds is at odds with his own personal behaviour.
“The thing is, I don’t pretend to be perfect,” Mr Joyce said.
“It’s like saying when you drove above the speed limit, do you regret saying that people should drive below the speed limit? No, you say I drove above the speed limit and I shouldn’t have.
“No one walks up the aisle thinking they’re going to get divorced, because if you are going to walk up the aisle thinking you’re going to get divorced, here’s a tip, don’t walk up the aisle.
“The idea that you therefore say I’m going to dismiss an institution because I failed in it, that’s also ridiculous. You say I failed but it doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”
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Mr Joyce said he regretted the way the news of his marriage breakdown and the birth of his son Sebastian, to Ms Campion, played out in the media in front of his former wife Natalie and their four daughters.
“Of course you do. People always ask that,” he said.
“People say if you had your time again, would you do anything different, I could ask that question of anybody, and if they said they’d do everything exactly the same, I’d say you must be a fool, of course you’d do things differently.”
He also suggested the news of the pregnancy of his son was not his to reveal, but rather it was Vikki Campion’s.
“I’m not here to announce other people’s business.”
But Mr Joyce would not be drawn on what he may have done differently – not commenting on if he should have resigned from politics or left his wife earlier.
“It’s such a hypothetical – circumstances would arise when you change direction. You’ll drive yourself inside out worrying about that, you can’t change the position,” he said.
“Once you’ve lost an arm in an accident, you can’t go back and say well, what would I – you’ve just got to move on.”
Mr Joyce has now attempted to use that spotlight on his personal life to highlight a cause he says should be at the front of debate – the drought and power prices.
“If I use it as burley to get people to also read the substantial policy efforts and research that’s happened – that’s good,” he said on including details of his personal life in his book alongside policy ideas.
“If that’s what drives people, pushes their buttons, then great, but they’ll walk away with an understanding… of how people have a sense of disconnect.
“Maybe some explanation as to why 16 percent of people in Longman at the byelections voted for a woman[ Pauline Hanson] that was on holiday in the Irish Sea.”
Looking ahead to the next federal election, Mr Joyce said the two key issues are the drought and power prices.
“Right in front of us now is how we deal with the drought, even in Sydney and in Melbourne people are saying how you look after these Australians determine how we think of you as a political organisation, if you let them fall over, we’ll let you fall over,” he said.
“And people keep screaming over and over again, fix up my power prices, I don’t want to hear your reasons why not, I don’t want to hear about an international agreement, I know that I am poor and I cannot afford my power price or my grandmother cannot afford her power bill.”
But that’s not enough to win the hearts of the Australian public, Mr Joyce said.
“You’ve got to show a vision – you’ve got to be brave enough to build a dam, you’ve got to get the steel out for the inland rail, you’ve got to show where the nation is going, and just not revel in the current period.”
And on what’s next for Mr Joyce?
“I’m a politician, first and foremost.”
© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2018