Canberra: Natalie Joyce has said she feels “deceived and hurt” by her husband, Barnaby Joyce, for starting an affair with a person who was his employee at the time.
After the Daily Telegraph’s publication of a picture of the visibly pregnant Vikki Campion, Natalie Joyce said in a statement that she is “deeply saddened by the news that my husband has been having an affair and is now having a child with a former staff member”.
With debate swirling in Canberra about whether the article was in the public interest, the Greens expressed outrage at the publication and Labor maintained that the deputy prime minister’s personal life should remain private.
Natalie Joyce added to the controversy by noting in a statement to the Australian on Wednesday that she understood the affair “has been going on for many months and started when [Campion] was a paid employee”.
Campion, a former journalist, left Joyce’s office in April to work for one of his close Nationals colleagues, the resources and northern Australia minister, Matt Canavan. Joyce has noted she is no longer employed by the Turnbull government because her contract ended during the December reshuffle.
Joyce is the father of four daughters by his wife and acknowledged he and Natalie were separated for the first time in December.
“This situation is devastating on many fronts,” Natalie Joyce said. “For my girls who are affected by the family breakdown and for me as a wife of 24 years, who placed my own career on hold to support Barnaby through his political life.
“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.”
Natalie Joyce said the situation for her family “will be made worse” by the events playing out publicly and asked that she and her girls be “given some privacy and time to come to terms with the consequences and take steps to plan our future”.
While the Daily Telegraph has previously alluded to Joyce’s troubled family life the deputy prime minister has provided few details. He rebuffed questions from Guardian Australia before the New England by-election by saying his personal life was not a legitimate subject of public debate.
During a parliamentary debate on marriage equality on 7 December, Joyce acknowledged for the first time that he was separated from his wife.
Joyce spoke against legalising marriage equality, arguing that the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman had “stood the test of time” while acknowledging he did not “come to this debate pretending to be any form of saint”.
On Wednesday the Greens MP, Adam Bandt, described the tabloid story as “despicable”. The “Murdoch tabloids ran a front-page paparazzi snap of a pregnant woman just because the father happens to be Barnaby Joyce”, he said.
“I’m no fan of Barnaby, and he’s a hypocrite for opposing equal marriage on the basis of family values and putting the LGBTI community through the wringer while leading a different life himself, but this isn’t about him, it’s about her,” Bandt said.
“She hasn’t chosen to be a public figure and she has the right to a private life, especially while pregnant.”
Labor’s shadow treasurer, Chris Bowen, said: “The Labor party has made no public statement about Barnaby Joyce’s personal situation for the last six months despite the fact it’s been well-known in this building. We’re not about to start today.
“I have clear criticisms of Barnaby Joyce, I think he’s a very poor deputy prime minister,” he said. “But my criticisms of him are of his job and, frankly, his personal situation is none of my business and, with respect, it’s none of anybody else’s business.”