The lunch where Barnaby's affair was outed

BARNABY Joyce cleaned out his media squad after the 2016 election, except for one staffer who had been seconded from the NSW Nationals.

It wasn't an unusual thing for minister's to do post-election, but it has had remarkable consequences.

Vikki Campion had been sent from the office of former NSW Nationals Deputy Premier Troy Grant to work in the Deputy Prime Minister's New England campaign as a media adviser and had become well known to locals.

Mr Joyce then took her to Canberra. That led to a relationship which has ended his marriage to the mother of his four daughters and created a new family with the child being carried by his former media adviser.

Mr Joyce told 7:30 last night he feels "incredibly hurt" that his private life has been thrown into the public arena.

The personal elements of the love affair are of themselves private matters. But the romance, by its very existence, became part of the delivery of public policy and taxpayer-funded staffing.

In the months after the 2016 poll, which saw the Turnbull government only just retain power, keen eyes around Parliament House were making deductions.

Outer windows of Labor Anthony Albanese's office look onto a secluded Parliament House garden, where a couple of regular visitors soon attracted the attention of staff.

Vikki Campion with Barnaby Joyce.
Vikki Campion with Barnaby Joyce.

Mr Joyce and Ms Campion were smokers, members of a cigarette minority in a building where inmates at least pretend to be healthy.

The frequency of their visits to the garden and the fact they were rarely joined by others attracted attention but no comment.

Inside the Joyce office there were other clues and they were quickly picked up by the minister's highly respected chief of staff Di Hallam.

Ms Hallam took two important steps: She sent Mr Joyce to the office of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to reveal the romance and Ms Campion was moved to the office of then Resources Minister Matt Canavan in late 2016.

"Clearly they thought her presence would be a problem, so she (Ms Hallam) made a decision," said a source familiar with the situation.

The existence and depth of the Joyce-Campion relationship soon became known through the agriculture sector, where the media adviser often accompanied the Agriculture Minister on official rounds.

Natalie Joyce, wife of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is pictured with her daughters. Daughters Odette, Caroline, Julia and Bridgette. Picture: Facebook
Natalie Joyce, wife of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is pictured with her daughters. Daughters Odette, Caroline, Julia and Bridgette. Picture: Facebook

"I had to avoid talking about it in case I was accused of spreading rumours," said one senior agricultural figure.

It was difficult to dodge the subject as Ms Campion was prominent in the minister's work, at times speaking alongside him in meetings.

One witness recalled a National's conference lunch where Ms Campion apparently made herself so prominent the baffled professional photographer hired for the event had to ask, "Who is that woman?"

Another guest put it more directly: "If you didn't know they were an item before the lunch you did by the end."

The critical matter of this period was the performance by Mr Joyce as Agriculture Minister, a post he dropped in the December reshuffle, preferring transport and infrastructure.

On Wednesday opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon spent half an hour bucketing the Joyce administration of the primary industries portfolio.

He was highly critical, as you could imagine a Labor spokesman would be.

He's miffed that the attention on the Joyce personal affairs has distracted from his performance as minister.


United front to fight for long term water security

United front to fight for long term water security

The two councils have come together to form the collaboration.

$16 million to target diseases

$16 million to target diseases

Tackling pests and diseases together

Local Partners