It was the Daily Telegraph‘s national political editor Sharri Markson that ended the pregnant pause as every press gallery journo in the country weighed up the juiciness of the Barnaby Joyce yarn versus their unwritten (and lackadaisically applied) rule about reporting on politician’s personal lives, and she has been driving it ever since.

Today saw the Tele publish a front-page story about uncertainty in the Nationals that was mostly a flimsy excuse to post a picture of what appears to be Joyce eyeing up now-partner Vikki Campion in a skirt. Slightly less impactful than the original story.

Tomorrow’s front page (newspaper editors have a habit of posting them to Twitter the night before) takes a decidedly weird turn, focusing on Joyce and Campion “[mucking] around with a fish“. Australia, what a country.

The Tele is suggesting there could be further misconduct at play in the scandal, with Joyce and Campion continuing to work closely together after Campion was moved to another office. The controversy here relates to ministerial code of conduct rules requiring the go-ahead from the Prime Minister‘s office in the appointment of family members or “partners“, with the PM playing very nebulous semantic games about what defines a partner in the service of defending Joyce.

It’s still up in the air what will happen to Joyce, with the PM indicating that he still has “full confidence” in him, and Nationals figures saying that they will not be approaching him to request that he steps down. The timeline of when Joyce was seeing Campion, when he gave it another go with his wife, and when he got back together with Campion is vague enough that it is difficult to nail down any specific wrongdoing. In addition to that, treasurer Scott Morrison has said that, ultimately, Nationals appointments are up to Joyce, so even if the timing does line up, it might be hard to nail him under the ministerial code of conduct.

It is a fresh mess. But, hey, at least we got a headline where it sounds like Barnaby Joyce is fucking a fish.

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Image: Getty Images / Stefan Postles