Elected members of the Nationals Party have copped to the fact that one more high-profile slip-up from leader Barnaby Joyce could force him to resign from his post as Deputy Prime Minister.
Fairfax Media reports they spoke to seven Nationals MPs over the weekend, in the wake of news Joyce is expecting a child with former media advisor Vikki Campion following an affair.
Two MPs, who chose to remain nameless, said Joyce would have to step down if there were any revelations he had misused his parliamentary travel allowance to pursue his relationship with Campion.
Joyce left a family holiday on the Sunshine Coast in January 2017 in order to return to Canberra to handle a pressing biosecurity matter. The ABC reports he hired a car for the drive back north instead of flying, and was at times accompanied by Campion.
The trip cost the taxpayer $1648. As parliamentary regulations meant Joyce could only claim the trip back to his headquarters in Tamworth, he repaid $708. Joyce refused to provide further details when pressed by the ABC about the matter over the weekend.
More recently, News Corp reports Joyce and Campion were spotted holidaying in QLD’s Palm Cove in late December, and in NSW’s Wooli at the beginning of the year. Joyce’s office also refused to answer The Australian’s questions on whether those trips involved taxpayer funds.
Tanya Plibersek, deputy leader of the Opposition, confirmed Labor would continue to question if Joyce had correctly used taxpayer funds.
Only one Nationals MP went on the record for Fairfax Media to defend the party’s current leader. Queensland’s Michelle Landry said “I believe Barnaby can survive this, we are a united team, we are a big family,” and further praised Campion’s contributions in her former role.
The Australian has also reported that some MPs are deeply concerned the affair will impact the ability of the Nationals to appeal to conservative, family-values voters. Still, there is reportedly little desire to oust Joyce from the party’s top job if it isn’t absolutely necessary.
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