Barnaby Joyce’s ‘increasingly suspicious’ wife made probing phone calls to his staff while Vikki Campion worked in his office – culminating in a blazing, door-slamming row.
Political insider Niki Savva has laid bare the unravelling of the former deputy prime minister in her new book, Plots and Prayers, which documents the end of Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership and the rise of Scott Morrison.
In the book, Ms Savva writes that Mr Joyce was spotted with Ms Campion at a doctor’s surgery for ‘scans’ in early 2017.
Mr Joyce’s ‘mood swings’ were obvious to everyone around him during this time, she said.
Meanwhile Ms Campion, who was hired by Mr Joyce in mid-2016, spoke frankly to her colleagues about her ‘closeness’ with the deputy prime minister, telling fellow government staff about the bushwalks they went on together.
Ms Savva, a former press secretary to ex-Treasurer Peter Costello, said: ‘She made no secret of her closeness to Joyce.
‘She would describe him as the loneliest man in Parliament.’
When Natalie Joyce started asking questions of Mr Joyce’s staff, Ms Savva wrote, ‘it put them under enormous pressure, deepening their emotional and ethical conflict, and sorely testing their loyalties’.
In February 2017, Mrs Joyce, who ‘had access to her husband’s diary and could see the frequency of his travels with Campion’, headed to Canberra to ‘try to find out what was going on’.
‘Once in the office, she quizzed an uncomfortable (Diana) Hallam (Mr Joyce’s chief of staff) about her husband’s activities, and then threatened to confront Campion,’ Ms Savva wrote.
Mrs Joyce then confronted her husband directly, Ms Savva recalled.
‘Staff cringed as doors slammed.
‘They could not hear what was being said, but they could hear the couple yelling, and then saw the distressed expressions on their faces when it was over.’
A statement then-acting prime minister Mr Joyce gave the media about having to fly to Canberra, instead of home in Tamworth, that May also sparked speculation.
‘I was happily on my way back to Tamworth until my media adviser told me to happily make my way to Canberra and now I’m not very happy,’ Mr Joyce told journalists.
Ms Savva said: ‘Staffers’ eyebrows shot up. There were a few too many ‘happy’s’ in there.
‘To them, it seemed like he actually looked forward to spending time away from Tamworth, not in Tamworth.’
Ms Savva claimed Mr Joyce was quizzed by Prime Minister Turnbull about his being spotted at a doctor’s surgery with Ms Campion in early 2017.
But Mr Joyce said Campion was ill and he had gone to the GP with her as a friend. There’s no suggestion otherwise.
The conversation about Mr Joyce’s surgery sighting led Mr Joyce and his chief of staff Di Hallam to have a spectacular blow up, Ms Savva claimed, and Ms Hallam did not return from a period of extended sick leave later.
Mr Joyce and Natalie made a final appearance at the Mid-Winter Ball together in July 2017.
During the same sex debate that December, he admitted his marriage with Natalie was over.
Some Coalition staffers knew at that point Ms Campion was pregnant.
Mr Joyce’s love affair with Ms Campion was exposed by the Daily Telegraph in February 2018, with the newspaper splashing a photograph of the pregnant staffer on its front page.
The damning photo led Barnaby’s wife Natalie to release a scathing statement saying she was ‘hurt and deceived’. It resulted in a media maelstrom that consumed Mr Turnbull and Mr Joyce’s government for weeks.
Ms Campion has given birth to two boys, Sebastian and Thomas, since. Mr Joyce stepped down from the Cabinet after a separate complaint was made about him. (A Nationals investigation could not substantiate the allegation).
In his autobiography, Mr Joyce admitted spending years ‘wandering and getting closer to other women’ before finding Ms Campion.
‘When I was at home I was a lie, and when I was in Canberra I was ashamed,’ he said.
Daily Mail Australia approached Mr Joyce’s office for comment.