Senior Liberals are reportedly pushing for Barnaby Joyce's resignation as questions over expenses now plague the Nationals leader

William West/AFP/Getty ImagesAustralia’s Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce (r), with PM Malcolm Turnbull
  • Joyce spent 50 nights staying in Canberra early last year when Parliament was not sitting – and billed it to taxpayers.
  • Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the Nationals leader has his support, but appears to be distancing himself from the ongoing controversy.
  • Senior Liberals are reportedly pushing for Joyce to go and the PM has been ringing Nationals MPs to gauge support for their leader.

Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce’s political future is currently enduring death by a thousand cuts.

The deputy Prime Minister attempted to stem the bleeding this morning, issuing a statement that apologised for his estranged wife, threatened legal action for “serious defamation” and denied any wrongdoing in the appointment of his now-pregnant partner, Vikki Campion, to senior positions with two Nationals politicians because “Vikki was not my partner” .

Today during Question Time, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told Parliament Joyce still had his support amid speculation that the PM had been ringing around Nationals MPs to gauge the level of support the party leader still had.

But Turnbull appeared to back away from comments from his office yesterday that said Joyce was not in breach of the PM’s ministerial code of conduct, which says MPs cannot employ relatives, because Campion was “not his partner at the time”, saying they “were not authorised by me”.

“All ministers are bound by the ministerial standards and the deputy PM has today explained his circumstances as it relates to the standards and I refer you to that statement,” Turnbull told Parliament.

“It is his responsibility to address it and comply with the standards.”

Turnbull later defined a partner as “essentially a cohabitation, a marriage-like relationship” but added Opposition leader Bill Shorten had “not been able to establish a breach of the ministerial standards” based on the facts “the deputy PM has set out”.

On Tuesday afternoon, The Australian reports senior Liberals are pushing for Joyce to go before he causes more damage to the Coalition government.

And questions over the Nationals leader’s use of parliamentary expenses during his on-off relationship with Campion have also been raised, with The West Australian reporting that Joyce claimed more than $10,000 from taxpayers for family reunion travel between January and September last year.

Here’s what the West Australian says:

More than half of the family travel expenditure was reported from July to September, while Mr Joyce’s mistress Vikki Campion was already pregnant with his fifth child.

Most of the travel reported is for airfares between Mr Joyce’s home base of Tamworth and Canberra or Sydney.

From July to September, three family travellers were nominated, taking a total of nine separate trips at a total cost of $5820.

One of the trips was for Mrs Joyce to attend the Mid Winter Ball in Canberra on June 14, which was reportedly orchestrated to end the damaging rumours about the affair. The return flights from Canberra to Tamworth for the event were reported at $1274.

Figures for the period September to December, when Mr Joyce told Parliament that his marriage was over, have not yet been made public by the Parliamentary Expenses Authority.

Fairfax Media’s James Massola has also been looking at the deputy PM’s expenses, finding that he charged taxpayers $16,690 in travel allowance for 50 nights spent in Canberra when Parliament was not sitting during the first nine months of 2017.

Joyce spent more time in the national capital than any other government cabinet minister, including Western Australian senators Mathias Cormann and Julie Bishop.

Here’s what Massola said:

Mr Joyce was acting Prime Minister for 10 of those 50 nights. Under the rules, Mr Joyce was entitled to claim $276 per night for official business as Deputy Prime Minister and $565 per night as acting Prime Minister.

He also claimed for 62 sitting nights – meaning he spent a total of 112 days in Canberra, out of 272 days, in the period examined.

When news of his relationship broke last week, Joyce said reporters had attempted to check his expenses via Freedom of Information requests, but had found no impropriety.

Joyce has been living in a rent-free accommodation in Armidale, provided by a millionaire supporter, but told Sky News that he didn’t need to declare it in the lead-up to last December’s by-election, which saw him re-elected to Parliament, because he “wasn’t an MP at the time”.

Joyce was forced to resign from Parliament because he was a dual-national with New Zealand citizenship, in breach of the Constitution.

Following his re-election, Joyce updated his pecuniary interests register in January with a “post-election residual of six-month tenancy on Armidale premises”. The value of the rental is estimated at around $14,000.

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