Deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has branded the crisis surrounding his affair with a former staffer as a witch hunt.
The defiant leader of the Nationals gave an interview on his first day of leave on Monday saying he would not be quitting as potential new leadership candidates began to circle.
In another twist in the saga over his relationship with his now pregnant partner and former media adviser Vikki Campion, allies of Mr Joyce have accused the prime minister of leaking information to the press.
‘People are starting to see this as a witch hunt. I’m not going anywhere, I never would,’ Mr Joyce said in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald.
‘People are starting to see this as a witch hunt. I’m not going anywhere,’ Barnaby Joyce said on Monday
Vikki Campion (pictured left) joined Barnaby Joyce’s staff as a media adviser before the pair’s relationship escalated
‘People know enough about me to know that I’m hardly one to run away from a fight.’
He stressed his personal feeling that a meeting between party chiefs was not crucial to his future.
Mr Joyce reminded people it was not an official meeting of the party’s top echelons and Nationals MPs were the ones to decide on who the leader of the party would be.
He has vowed to fight on despite the criticism and mounting pressure on him to quit amid the scandal engulfing the federal government.
‘I’ve been in heaps of fights in my political life, this is another one,’ he said.
‘In any person’s political career you aren’t created by the times in your favour, you’re tempered by the times of adversity. That’s how politics works – you rise to deal with it.’
Sources inside the Nationals have now turned the focus on prime minister Malcolm Turnbull – accusing him of working in partnership with journalists by leaking stories.
Sources in the Nationals claimed recent stories about Barnaby Joyce had been leaked by Malcolm Turnbull’s (pictured) office
Barnaby Joyce’s work trips with his former adviser Vikki Campion cost taxpayers $28,408
It is claimed one of those stories appeared in Daily Telegraph alleging Mr Joyce had tried to steal a portfolio position from another minister during the reshuffle in December.
The importance of a telephone conference between leading party officials on Monday was also played down by the Nationals, the Herald reports.
The paper quoted sources from inside the party saying it was not surprising following the events of recent days and weeks that a catch-up had taken place.
It comes after it emerged his relationship with his younger former media adviser had cost taxpayers more than $28,000 for them to travel together for work.
Daily Mail Australia is not suggesting anything illegal took place and is not accusing Mr Joyce of misusing public funds.
However, the revelation about the 50-year-old Nationals leader’s expenses came as a Newspoll survey showed two-thirds of voters wanted Mr Joyce to resign as Deputy Prime Minister as he prepared to take a week of leave.
She travelled extensively across Australia with her former boss, flying with him from Brisbane to Victoria (flight receipts pictured above)
In 2016 and 2017, the father-of-four’s travel to events with his now pregnant 33-year-old former staffer Vikki Campion cost taxpayers $28,408 when she was on his payroll.
Daily Mail Australia has analysed expenses incurred by Mr Joyce between May 2016, when Ms Campion joined his election campaign as media adviser, to April 2017 when she quit as his adviser to work for Nationals minister Matt Canavan.
This publication isn’t suggesting any misuse of funds and has examined the records from the Department of Finance and Defence, which operate VIP flights for ministers.
However, Mr Joyce’s 24-year marriage to his estranged wife Natalie ended after Ms Campion had joined his office.
She travelled extensively across Australia with her former boss, flying with him from the Gold Coast to Melbourne, and several regional centres in between, during her year as a full-time staffer with the Deputy Prime Minister.
Mr Joyce and Ms Campion were photographed together in a bar at Glebe in Sydney’s inner-west in February 2017, after flying down from Tamworth
27 May 2016 – Gold Coast/Tamworth: $11,000 – VIP flight
17 June 2016 – Glen Innes/Lismore: $1,334 – VIP flight
17 June 2016 – Lismore/Inverell: $1,334 – VIP flight
25 August 2016 – Melbourne/Sydney: $1,135; Comcars: $346
5 October 2016 – Orange/Narrandera: $562 – VIP flight
5 October 2016 – Narrandera/Deniliquin: $351 – VIP flight
14 November 2016 – Brisbane/East Sale: $8,740 – VIP flight
14 November 2016 – East Sale/Melbourne: $2,300 – VIP flight
23 February 2017 – Tamworth/Sydney: $356 flight; two night travel allowance: $442; Comcars: $73
25 February 2017 – Sydney/Tamworth: $356 flight; Comcar: $79
Sources: Department of Finance, Defence
When Ms Campion first joined the Deputy PM’s office in May 2016, she travelled with her boss on VIP flights to the New South Wales towns of Tamworth, Glen Innes, Armidale, Lismore, as Mr Joyce campaigned for the upcoming July election.
Three months later, in August 2016, the pair caught a flight from Sydney to Melbourne costing taxpayers $1,135 so they could attend an Australian Dairy Industry Symposium.
In October and November 2016, Mr Joyce and Ms Campion took four VIP trips together, costing almost $12,000, taking them across central-western NSW and to Brisbane and Melbourne.
In February last year, Mr Joyce was photographed with Ms Campion, a former Daily Telegraph journalist, drinking a bar at Glebe in Sydney’s inner-west.
During that visit to the New South Wales capital, Mr Joyce claimed two nights of travel allowance worth $442, along with flights from Sydney to Tamworth each costing $356.
A Newspoll survey shows 65 per cent of voters want Mr Joyce to quit as Deputy Prime Minister
The Deputy Prime Minister also claimed $152 in Comcar travel.
The revelations came as a Newspoll survey of 1,632 voters, published in The Australian, showed 65 per cent of the electorate wanted Mr Joyce to quit as Deputy Prime Minister.
His relationship with Ms Campion has damaged the Turnbull Government’s standing, with the Coalition’s primary vote falling two points to 36 per cent, putting it one point behind Labor’s.
The government now trails the Opposition 53 per cent to 47 per cent after preferences.
Daily Mail Australia contacted Mr Joyce’s office for comment.
The Barnaby Joyce affair – Timeline
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
February – Campion is photographed in a Sydney bar with Joyce, as revealed by Daily Mail Australia
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 New South Wales 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
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: AAP from media reports and official statements