Lover worked alongside Joyce against minister’s code
BARNABY Joyce and his secret lover continued to work closely together months after she was transferred to the payrolls of other National MPs to ensure the Deputy Prime Minister avoided breaching the ministerial code of conduct.
New questions also emerged about a weekend Mr Joyce spent in Canberra when he had no official meetings, as the scandal over his affair with staffer Vikki Campion put pressure on National MPs to declare where they stood on his leadership.
As Mr Joyce yesterday pleaded with nervous colleagues for more time for the scandal to blow over, The Daily Telegraph discovered that Ms Campion continued to assist him with media events last June, August and September while in the employ of other ministers.
In June, while officially working for Matt Canavan in the newly created role of social media senior adviser, Ms Campion helped Mr Joyce with a media event he did alongside the National Carp Control Plan Co-ordinator Matt Barwick at Parliament House in Canberra on a sitting day.
One attendee at the press event confirmed Mr Joyce had been accompanied by Ms Campion and two other staff members, but they said Senator Canavan was not present.
In August, photographs show Ms Campion assisted at a media conference held by Mr Joyce and National MPs Michelle Landry and Ken O'Dowd on the Rockhampton airport during a National Party get-together attended by all National MPs where Ms Campion gave a session on social media.
And in September 8-10, Ms Campion assisted Mr Joyce with media at the Nationals' Federal Conference.
Government sources said Natalie Joyce stopped receiving spousal entitlements in August. At that time, Ms Campion was in the very early stages of her pregnancy, with her baby due in April.
Partners and family are banned from working for ministers without approval from the Prime Minister.
There are also fresh questions about a weekend Mr Joyce spent in Canberra, where Ms Campion owns a unit, during a non-sitting period. Mr Joyce stayed in Canberra on Saturday July 15 and Sunday July 16 during a non-sitting period of Parliament, claiming $276 in travel allowance for the Saturday night.
The only commitment he had that entire weekend was "portfolio briefings" at Parliament House on the Saturday afternoon. "Mr Joyce was unable to return to Tamworth that night as the last connecting flight from Canberra was at 1.10pm," his spokesman said. "As the Deputy PM was required to be in Canberra on Monday morning; he chose not to return to Tamworth on Sunday as he would have flown a Canberra-Sydney-Tamworth-Sydney-Canberra circuit in one day."
Mr Joyce also spent 50 nights in Canberra last year, more than any other Cabinet minister.
Yesterday the Deputy Prime Minister told colleagues in a party room meeting he believed the scandal and subsequent revelations about jobs for his girlfriend could not stay on the front page for much longer.
His appeal to be given time to see out the crisis came after the collapse of a late leadership push on Tuesday evening when four instigators understood to include former assistant minister Keith Pitt and Victorian MP Andrew Broad failed to find adequate support to force the Deputy Prime Minister from his job.
Mr Pitt, who was dumped as assistant minister by Mr Joyce in a reshuffle, denied being involved.
But Queensland Nationals MP Ken O'Dowd, in his first public comments on the party's split, confirmed it was likely concerned colleagues would speak to Mr Joyce and that he "would hope to have it resolved today or tomorrow".
Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie backed Mr Joyce to hang on while acknowledging unease in the party over the scandal.
"I will give you my rolled gold guarantee that come tomorrow, come Friday that Barnaby Joyce will be leading the National party," Senator McKenzie said.
Chief Nationals whip Michelle Landry and Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, both allies of Mr Joyce, offered their support for their leader.
Queensland MP George Christensen, who some Nationals sources said had wavered in his support on Tuesday, yesterday said there was only "a small number of people," talking about a leadership change.
A number of Nationals MPs visited Veterans Affairs Minister Michael McCormack to express their concerns. But one Nationals source close to Mr Joyce, said the move was "just the anti-Barnaby crew using this for their latest attack".