SYDNEY • Australia's scandal-hit former deputy prime minister was widely criticised yesterday for agreeing to a paid tell-all television interview about an extramarital affair, threatening further disharmony in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's government.
The move is unusual for an elected official - Mr Barnaby Joyce is a backbencher in the Liberal-National coalition government - and prompted calls from his own party for a ban on payments for media appearances by serving politicians.
The payment, which media said was A$150,000 (S$152,000), provoked critical comment on social media and again raised the hackles of Mr Turnbull, who this year lambasted Mr Joyce's "shocking error of judgment" over the affair with his media adviser.
"It has been very widely criticised," Mr Turnbull told Tasmanian radio station LAFM, speaking of the interview payment.
"It is certainly not a course of action I would have encouraged him to take, I will put it that way."
Mr Joyce, perhaps best known for threatening to kill film star Johnny Depp's dogs over a quarantine violation, asked the media to respect his privacy when his affair with Vicki Campion was made public.
He resigned as leader of the Nationals, the junior coalition partner, in February after weeks of pressure. Mr Joyce and Ms Campion now live together and recently had a child, a son whom Mr Joyce said would be the beneficiary of the interview payment.
Mr Joyce added that Ms Campion, as a private citizen, had a right to make money from an already intrusive situation. "In the last fortnight we've had drones over our house, we've had paparazzi waiting for us," Mr Joyce told reporters in Canberra. "We tried just burning this out and that didn't work."
As Mr Joyce continues to enjoy influence within the conservative wing of the coalition government, political analysts said Mr Turnbull can ill afford any split, with a federal election less than a year away.
"The government cannot be seen to fighting publicly," said Associate Professor Haydon Manning of Flinders University in South Australia. "Disunity is death, as they say in Australian politics."