Scandal enthrals, and appals, Australians

Australia's Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce with his lover Vikki Campion in an undated photo. She is pregnant with his baby.
Australia's Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce with his lover Vikki Campion in an undated photo. She is pregnant with his baby.

SYDNEY • The #barnababy scandal has riveted Australians since it broke earlier this month, when Sydney's Daily Telegraph splashed a picture of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce's 33-year-old pregnant lover on its front page.

Other media outlets quickly followed up with more details of the affair and revelations of Mr Joyce's use of taxpayers' money, with calls growing louder for the Deputy Prime Minister to explain his conduct.

Mr Joyce, 50, is under immense pressure for failing to declare his ties with his former staffer Vikki Campion when she was given two highly paid positions working for the ruling coalition government. Mr Joyce said he did not break any rules because Ms Campion was not his "partner" then. The opposition Labor Party disagreed.

Fairfax Media revealed he charged taxpayers to spend 50 nights in Canberra last year when Parliament was not sitting - more than any other Cabinet minister. Ms Campion lived in Canberra throughout 2017.

Mr Joyce, whose constituency is in New South Wales, also claimed for 62 sitting nights - meaning he spent a total of 112 days in Canberra.

The Labor Party also accused Mr Joyce of breaching ministerial standards by receiving a gift of six months' free rent, worth about A$12,000 (S$12,500).

Mr Joyce has updated his parliamentary register to show he had been given free use of an apartment in Armidale in his constituency, but not that it was donated by a friend, businessman Greg Maguire. Mr Joyce said he offered to pay rent but his friend would not accept it, ABC online reported.

The Senate last Thursday passed a motion for Mr Joyce to resign, saying he had breached standards of behaviour expected of a minister.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 18, 2018, with the headline 'Scandal enthrals, and appals, Australians'. Print Edition | Subscribe