Senior MP confirms Nationals will meet with Barnaby Joyce to discuss leadership-NewsCO

February 13, 2018

Key points:

  • Delegation of Nationals colleagues will soon meet with Mr Joyce to discuss his future
  • Joyce confirms ex-staffer Vikki Campion is now his “partner” but denies breaching ministerial rules
  • Apologises to estranged wife, children and Ms Campion for “all the hurt”

A group of Nationals will meet with deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce to “tell him where the party stands” on his leadership, as Mr Joyce faces growing pressure to resign over a recently exposed affair with his former media advisor.

Nationals MP Ken O’Dowd confirmed the delegation would go to see Mr Joyce soon, and hoped to have the matter “resolved today or tomorrow”.

“He’ll probably need the advice, and someone needs to tell him where the party stands at this stage,” Mr O’Dowd told reporters outside Parliament House on Wednesday morning.

“It will be a cordial meeting.”

Mr O’Dowd said if the matter came to a leadership spill, there were plenty of capable candidates. He has previously suggested he may put his hand up for the leadership himself.

“We would find a good leader, I feel sure about that,” he said.  

The MP said he had not heard from Barnaby Joyce in the past 24 hours.

Forcingthe Nationals leader to step down would require the majority of the 21-member party room. 

Senior Nationals MP and Veterans Affairs Minister Michael McCormack, who has missed out twice on becoming deputy leader, denied any involvement in conversations with colleagues about replacing Mr Joyce.

“No I haven’t,” he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

Former Nationals leader Warren Truss weighed in on the leadership doubts on the ABC’s 7:30 program on Tuesday. He said Mr Joyce’s handle on the leadership had been “diminished” and warned he would need to “demonstrate” he could still do the job.

“These types of interludes are unhelpful and need to be resolved quickly,” Mr Truss said.

Labor used Question Time in parliament yesterday to ask Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull whether he remained confident in his deputy.

“Yes,” Mr Turnbull replied.

The defiant Nationals leader gave a brief statement to the media outside Parliament House on Tuesday morning. Mr Joyce did not take any questions but gave no indication he was considering resigning over the growing scandal.

He apologised to his estranged wife and his four daughters “for all the hurt” caused by the fallout from his recently exposed affair with his former media advisor Vikki Campion, who is now pregnant with their child.

He also apologised to Ms Campion, whom he conceded was now his “partner”.

Labor MP Chris Bowen said Mr Joyce’s position was coming increasingly “untenable”, while the Greens party are calling for him to resign his ministerial responsibilities.

No breach of ministerial rules: Joyce

The ministerial code of conduct says partners and close relatives of ministers are not allowed to be given jobs within the minister’s office, or with other members of the executive, without the express permission of the prime minister. 

Ms Campion was moved from Mr Joyce’s office into the employment of Nationals colleague Matt Canavan, and then to the office of Damien Drum. 

Malcolm Turnbull’s office said the prime minister had never needed to grant permission because Ms Campion was not Mr Joyce’s “partner” at the time. 

Speaking with reporters on Tuesday morning, Mr Joyce denied breaching the code. 

“It is without a shadow of a doubt that Vikki Campion is my partner now,” Mr Joyce said. 

“But when she worked in my office, she was not my partner. When she worked in Matt Canavan’s office, she was not my partner. And Damian Drum was not a minister.”

Reports of 2011 incident ‘untrue’ 

On Tuesday morning the Daily Telegraph and Courier Mail reported on an incident in 2011, separate to the affair with Ms Campion, alleging Mr Joyce engaged in inappropriate behaviour. 

Mr Joyce strongly denied the report and said he would consider legal action, claiming the story was “peddled” by one of his “deepest political enemies”. 

“It’s not a case that I didn’t recollect it. It did not happen,” Mr Joyce told reporters. 

The deputy prime minister said he had already engaged lawyers and was considering action. 

“I have consulted senior legal advisers and reserve the right to take action for what is serious defamation,” Mr Joyce said in a written statement. 

Barnaby Joyce and Vikki Campion timeline

2016

May – Vikki Campion assists Barnaby Joyce’s election campaign as media adviser, having previously worked with NSW government ministers and News Corp

August – Campion joins Joyce’s staff. She splits with fiance John Bergin, three months before they were due to wed. Friendship develops between Joyce and Campion

December – Chief of staff Di Hallam reportedly seeks Joyce’s approval to have Campion transferred out of office. Hallam later quits to take up departmental role

2017

February – Campion is photographed in a Sydney bar with Joyce

April – Barnaby’s wife Natalie reportedly confronts Campion in Tamworth. Campion goes to minister Matt Canavan office as adviser. Natalie and Barnaby seek to make marriage work

May – At NSW Nationals conference in Broken Hill colleagues describe Joyce as “a mess”

June – Natalie and Barnaby show up together at Canberra press gallery midwinter ball

July – Campion leaves Canavan office after he quits frontbench over citizenship. She temporarily goes back to Joyce’s office

August – Campion moves to Damian Drum’s office in a social media adviser position specially created for her. He already has a media adviser. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is reportedly reassured by Joyce the relationship with Campion is over. Drum says he was told the same thing. Former Joyce chief of staff Di Hallam takes up a senior position with the Inland Rail project

September – Natalie reportedly asks family friend, Catholic priest Father Frank Brennan, to counsel Joyce. Campion is seen managing Joyce media events at federal Nationals conference in Canberra

October – Campion reportedly takes stress leave. Writ issued for New England by-election after Joyce quits over dual citizenship

November – Natalie holidays in Bali with a daughter. Man in a pub in Inverell angers Joyce during election campaign by reportedly saying: “Say hello to your mistress”

December – Joyce wins by-election. Joyce tells parliament during same-sex marriage debate he is separated. Campion’s redundancy package is approved. They move into an Armidale property provided rent-free by businessman Greg Maguire

2018

January – Joyce and Campion holiday in north Queensland and NSW north coast

February – Joyce tells reporters Campion is now his partner. But denies she was his partner when she worked in Canavan’s office

Mid-April – Joyce-Campion baby is due

(Source: Based on media reports and official statements.)

– with AAP

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