The move is unusual for an elected official – Barnaby Joyce is now a backbencher in the Liberal-National coalition government – and prompted calls from his own party for a ban on payments for media appearances by serving politicians.
Prime Minister Turnbull and Mr Joyce held urgent talks at lunchtime in Sydney in a bid to reconcile differences following their public row triggered by Mr Joyce’s affair with former staffer and mother of his unborn child, Vikki Campion.
Lawmakers had been reluctant to criticize Joyce, a plain-spoken small-town accountant turned politician, but came under pressure following revelations that the former press secretary was given two highly paid jobs after leaving his office.
“I am very aware of the ministerial code of conduct. It is without a shadow of a doubt that Vikki Campion is my partner now, but when she worked in my office, she was not my partner. When she worked in Matt Canavan’s office, she was not my partner,” Joyce told reporters in Canberra.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has pointedly distanced himself from the Barnaby Joyce affair but insists the embattled Deputy Prime Minister has his full confidence, despite the widening scandal derailing the government’s start to a crucial political year.