Barnaby Joyce used the word 'private' 31 times in an interview about his affair with a former staffer

Screenshot/ABC TVBarnaby Joyce

Amid all the commentary on Nationals leader and deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce’s relationship with a former staffer who is now pregnant with his child, one telling anecdote emerged yesterday.

Writing for The Daily Telegraph, political reporter Samantha Maiden recounted how Joyce appeared at last June’s Mid Winter ball with “his much-admired wife”, Natalie Joyce, giving journalists who’d heard separation rumours pause “for thought”.

Here’s Maiden recounting the darker art of politics at play.

She looked beautiful in a strapless gown. He wore black tie, a smile and carried a stock whip.

Perhaps it was just the usual scuttlebutt around in Canberra and the happy couple were still hitched? It was really nobody’s business.

Months later, when Joyce confirmed his separation, a Turnbull staffer expressed joy that the press gallery had noticed Natalie’s attendance.

“Thank God! We worked for weeks to get her to come!,” he boasted.

Natalie Joyce, the MP’s wife of 24 years and the mother of his four daughters, had been wheeled out in public by Coalition minders in a bid to hose down rumours of marital strife.

Joyce’s new partner is now weeks away from having a baby. The couple must have been weeks away from conceiving it at that point.

As Natalie Joyce said in a statement yesterday: “I understand that this affair has been going on for many months and started when she was a paid employee”.

The 50-year-old Nationals leader’s 33-year-old partner worked for Joyce up until April last year, then worked for two senior Nationals politicians and finished up as a public servant in December.

Last night Joyce appeared on ABC TV’s 7.30 and mostly avoided answering questions from Leigh Sales about his affair, saying it was a private matter.

Joyce used the word “private” 31 times in the 7 minute interview.

“I don’t think it helps anybody in the future to start making this a public discussion. As much as I can, I will keep private matters private,” he said

The deputy PM said the end of his marriage was “one the greatest failures of my life. I’m not proud of it”.

Asked by Sales about protecting his reputation and public interest because the matter goes to “character relating to loyalty and trustworthiness” for voters Joyce said he didn’t think the end of his relationship “makes me terribly unusual” and it puts him “in the same box as 40 to 50% of other marriages”.

“After that, it is a private issue. I’m gonna not go into the public arena and discuss my private life,” he said.

Here’s The Weekend Australian Magazine less than 12 months ago, in March 2017.

Barnaby Joyce, with help from his wife, Natalie, and their four beloved daughters, gives a candid insight into behind-closed-doors life as a federal politician. “Nothing worse than a politician crying into his beer,” the Deputy Prime Minister said with a laugh. And there’s nothing more ­refreshing than a political ­family honest enough to tell it like it really is.

“It’s a horrible life and I don’t wish it upon anyone,” summarised Joyce’s eldest daughter, Bridgette, 20. “Probably the worst thing is that we haven’t spent time ­together as a family since he got elected in 2004.”

There was a time when Joyce’s youngest daughter, Odette, was so uncomfortable with her father’s rare presence in the family home that she would ask her mother when he was going to leave. “Odette’s never known anything but politics,” Natalie Joyce said. “Every time he’d come home, she actually wouldn’t go near him ­because, like, he hasn’t been home.”

For his 13 years in politics, first as a Queensland senator, then, in order to satisfy his leadership ambitions, as the NSW MP for New England, Barnaby Joyce’s family has been a political asset wheeled out at election campaign after campaign in an effort to bolster his reputation.

But now his family life is a private matter.

As Natalie Joyce said yesterday: “Our family life has had to be shared during Barnaby’s political career and it was with trust that we let campaign and office staff into our homes and into our lives. Naturally we also feel deceived and hurt by the actions of Barnaby and the staff member involved.”

The Joyce women have requested privacy. The daughters are aged between 21 and 16 and have had to deal with paparazzi as they grow up. Media is currently camped outside their house in Tamworth. If anyone’s earned the right to privacy after a decade in the spotlight, it’s them.

Here’s the 7.30 interview with Joyce.

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