Coulton: we’re sticking with Barnaby

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce still has the support of his Nationals colleague, Parkes MP Mark Coulton said, providing no more compromising information comes to light.

The Nationals are sticking by their leader after it emerged Mr Joyce had an extra-marital affair with his then media adviser Vikki Campion, who is now expecting his child.

Mr Coulton said that, “as sad as the circumstances” were, Mr Joyce’s actions were not a sack-able offence.

“I don’t think his personal actions have professional implications, other than the issue itself has become a major distraction for the government,” Mr Coulton said.

“I certainly don’t want to pass any judgement on what he has done in his personal life but I think Barnaby has been a very effective representative of the bush … we’ve put the final announcements for the Inland Rail, and Barnaby has been instrumental in helping me get the cancer centre for Dubbo.

“There’s a lot of people, not just in New England but right across the country and I believe those people are still supporting him. I think the party is bigger than any one person so it’s a distraction but it hasn’t damaged us.”

Mr Joyce has faced questions over his use of an Armidale apartment for six months rent-free, as well as over whether he may have been in breach of any ministerial standards when Ms Campion took up a job in the office of Resources Minister Matt Canavan, and then Nationals whip Damian Drum.

The ministerial code of conduct states "partners" of ministers cannot be given jobs in any ministerial office without the express approval of the prime minister.

Mr Coulton said he trusted Mr Joyce’s assertions that he was not in breach of any parliamentary rules.

“It’s not only taking it on faith, but there’s a lot of people going through his expenses, his interests line by line and I’m sure if there’s any inconsistencies there they would be found out and there’s been nothing found yet and I have no reason to think otherwise,” he said.

“He does [have my support]. That will continue unless other information comes to light that we don’t know about, but at this stage Barnaby has the support of the party room.”

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann will be acting Prime Minister next week, while Mr Joyce takes personal leave.

Mr Coulton said Mr Joyce has been under “enormous pressure in Parliament”, the likes of which he has never seen in his ten years in Parliament.

“It’s definitely done his reputation harm. Whether it’s beyond repair, I certainly hope not,” Mr Coulton said.

“My hope is that when we go back to Parliament after we’ve had a week in the electorate, things would have moved on and he can continue in the role he’s been doing and that will be good for the people of Australia and especially in the regions.

“My hope is that he can pick himself up and carry on because I believe that we need him in Canberra.”

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Nyngan Observer

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