David Panton was sometimes unkindly described as Julie Bishop’s handbag, as if he was just another of her expensive fashion accessories.
During Bishop’s time as foreign minister the property developer was regularly photographed smiling by her side at sparkling social gatherings but barely said a word in public.
Now it is Bishop, 65, who has so far remained silent as her boyfriend of eight years confirmed their relationship ended last Friday over one final meal.
‘I’m going to be focused on living in Manly and Melbourne for the foreseeable future,’ 61-year-old Panton told The Sydney Morning Herald.
‘I wish Julie all the best in her ongoing stellar career.’
David Panton was sometimes unkindly described as Julie Bishop’s handbag, as if he was another of her expensive fashion accessories or just part of the show. Panton has revealed the couple, pictured at Victoria’s famed Portsea Polo in 2019, has split after eight years
Then US First Lady Melania Trump assumed Panton was Australia’s foreign minister when the couple attended a UN meeting in 2017, according to Bishop. Left to right: Panton, Bishop, Donald Trump and Melania Trump
Panton was unknown when he first appeared with Bishop at the 2014 Melbourne Cup, a year after the prime minister Tony Abbott appointed her minister for foreign affairs.
They had been introduced by Bishop’s close friend and retired Liberal politician Bruce Baird and shared an interest in fitness and health.
A seemingly never-ending round of glamorous outings would follow – including repeated invitations to marquees at Flemington racecourse, opening nights and fashion shows.
Together the couple attended AFL grand finals and Melbourne’s famed Portsea Polo – where Bishop once also carried a $7,350 Louis Vuitton Petite Malle handbag for company.
There were seats next to Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour at the Australian Open, and a prime position to watch Carlton play West Coast with then US vice-president Joe Biden at the MCG.
Vogue editor Anna Wintour, actor Nicole Kidman, Julie Bishop, singer Keith Urban and David Panton are pictured left to right at the Australian Open in 2019
David Panton is pictured left with Julie Bishop and then US vice-president Joe Biden at an AFL game between Carlton and West Coast at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 2016
Panton even sat next to Bishop at meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in front of some of the world’s most powerful leaders in 2015.
The pair spent the last night of that year at Melbourne’s Crown casino where they were photographed with James Packer before the billionaire’s then girlfriend Mariah Carey performed.
Two years later then US First Lady Melania Trump assumed Panton was Australia’s foreign minister when the couple attended another UN meeting, according to Bishop.
For most of their relationship Bishop lived in Perth, where she worked as a lawyer before entering parliament, while Panton stayed on Sydney’s northern beaches.
She never nominated him as her official ‘partner’, which would mean disclosing his financial interests on the parliamentary register as is required for MPs’ spouses and those with whom they are in de facto relationships.
Panton was, however, Bishop’s ‘nominated person’ entitled to taxpayer-funded domestic travel when he accompanied her on intrastate and interstate trips.
Panton even sat next to Bishop at meeting of the UN General Assembly in front of some of the world’s most powerful leaders in 2015. Panton and Bishop and pictured at that meeting
The pair had been together just a week ago at St James’s Palace in London, having dinner with Prince Charles for an event honouring his charity
In 2018 it was reported Bishop had claimed $32,000 in travel for Panton over the previous three years.
Panton, originally from Melbourne, had run a vineyard with ex-wife Karen and owned a pharmacy business before moving into property development when he moved to Sydney in 2014.
Bishop was married to another property developer, Neil Gillon, from 1983 to 1988 and dated former Lord Mayor Perth Peter Nattrass for at least 12 years.
She once told The Sydney Morning Herald what it was she found so attractive about Panton. ‘I think that’s self-evident – have you seen him?’ she asked.
‘He’s a swimmer, I’m a runner. He’s a very independent-minded and successful businessman, and he has a delightful sense of humour. He makes me laugh.’
Bishop and Paton spent New Year’s Eve 2015 at Melbourne’s Crown casino where they were photographed with James Packer before the billionaire’s then girlfriend Mariah Carey performed. Bishop, Panton and Packer are pictured
Bishop also explained why neither had moved to the other’s city so they could share a home.
‘[David and I] meet constantly, travel together and travel overseas to keep it fresh,’ she said. ‘I think long-distance relationships can be a lot of fun.’
Panton has three children, while Bishop has none. She has previously opened up about an early desire to be a mother but said the opportunity had passed and she did not feel she had missed out.
‘The window closes pretty quickly at 40,’ she told Kidspot. ‘So politics is pretty much my life.
‘I feel incredibly lucky that I’ve had the kind of career that is so consuming that I don’t feel I have a void in my life.’
During Bishop’s time as foreign minister property developer Paton was regularly photographed smiling by her side at sparkling social gatherings but barely said a word. left to right are Karl Stefanovic, his wife Jasmine, Bishop and Panton
The woman known as ‘J-Bish’ – and less gently as ‘Jewellery Bigshop’ for her expensive fashion tastes – has long enjoyed a second amateur career on the red carpet.
Escorting her to these events Panton was routinely described as ‘perma-tanned’, ‘dapper’, ‘unfeasibly handsome’ and occasionally as her toy boy.
When a columnist for Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper referred to Panton as Bishop’s ‘manbag’ in May 2018 an adviser rang to state the minister was not pleased.
In December the same year Bishop and Panton attended the lavish wedding of Today host Karl Stefanovic and shoe designer Jasmine Yarbrough in Cabo, Mexico.
By then Bishop had resigned as foreign minister and announced she would quit parliament at the May 2019 federal election.
But there was no chance camera-loving Bishop and Panton would disappear from public view after she returned to private life.
Bishop once told The Sydney Morning Herald what it was she found so attractive about Panton. ‘I think that’s self-evident – have you seen him?’ she asked
In October 2019 the pair attended Perth’s famed Lexus Ball where radio announcer Basil Zempilas – now the city’s lord mayor – tried the old joke about Panton’s status on Bishop’s arm.
‘That’s a lovely handbag you’ve got tonight, Julie,’ Zempilas told Bishop as he moved through the crowd.
‘Thank you, Basil, I’m glad you noticed,’ Bishop replied.
Zempilas: ‘Not you, David, I mean the actual handbag.’
The couple’s long-distance relationship survived the worst of the Covid-19 lockdowns with her in Perth and him on the east coast for seven months.
‘It isn’t great, but it is all you can do because he can’t get in here, and I can’t go there without having to get an exemption,’ Bishop told The Daily Telegraph at the time.
‘It is very difficult but I know a lot of families have been separated in this way, it is challenging.’
For most of their relationship Bishop lived in Perth, where she worked as a lawyer before entering parliament, while Panton stayed on Sydney’s northern beaches
In April last year Bishop and Panton were seen at the state funeral for designer Carla Zampatti’s funeral and a week age they dined with Prince Charles in London at St James’s Palace.
Last Friday they went to dinner at Eastbank restaurant in Sydney’s Macquarie Street where Panton apparently told Bishop their relationship had run its course.
Both still have plenty on their plates to keep them busy as they go their separate ways.
Bishop joined the board of professional services company Palladium after quitting politics and started a consultancy firm, Julie Bishop and Partners. She was appointed Chancellor of Australian National University in 2020.
Panton is the director for Pantonic Health, which became a major provider of Covid rapid antigen tests during the pandemic. He runs the company alongside his daughters Sally and Laura.
INSIDE JULIE BISHOP AND DAVID PANTON’S RELATIONSHIP
November, 2014: Julie Bishop and David Panton are pictured publicly for the first time at the 2014 Melbourne Cup
December, 2018: The pair attend Karl Stefanovic’s wedding to Jasmine Yarbrough in Mexico
November, 2019: Ms Bishop gives a rare insight into her relationship and why she fell for the property developer
‘He’s a very independent-minded and successful businessman, and he has a delightful sense of humour. He makes me laugh,’ she told the Sydney Morning Herald
September 2020: Ms Bishop talks of the struggles of their long distance relationship during Covid, with her living in Perth and Mr Panton in Sydney
The pair was separated for seven months
‘The first place I will go is to Sydney to see David,’ Ms Bishop told The Daily Telegraph about borders reopening.
‘We FaceTime. It isn’t great but it is all you can do because he can’t get in here (WA) and I can’t go there without having to get an exemption. It is very difficult but I know a lot of families have been separated in this way, it is challenging.’
July 2022: Pair attend St James’s Palace in London last week for an event honouring Prince Charles’ charity
The news breaks six days later she and Mr Panton have split