Barnaby Joyce and his pregnant partner Vikki Campion claim they have been hounded out of their rent-free apartment, and fear their baby son will be viewed "somehow less worthy than other children".
In an exclusive interview with Fairfax Media in Armidale a fortnight after their relationship was exposed, the couple made a direct appeal to politicians and members of the public: "It's time to move on."
The Deputy Prime Minister also insisted he can work alongside Malcolm Turnbull, and said the Prime Minister never directly asked him about the relationship with Ms Campion before it was revealed on the front page of The Daily Telegraph.
The Nationals leader also said he retained the support of the majority of the party room despite speculation of a leadership showdown when MPs return to Canberra on Monday.
Ms Campion refused to be photographed during the interview and is deeply uncomfortable with the public scrutiny placed on her, Mr Joyce, and the couple’s respective families.
The former journalist and media advisor allowed just one comment on the record, noting her son's middle names would be in honour of her two brothers.
"Their support has meant so much. They are the only people who knew," Ms Campion said.
Mr Joyce and Ms Campion’s decision to speak during a week in which the Deputy Prime Minister is on personal leave could reignite tensions in the Turnbull, and his own family. His wife, Natalie, is said to have entertained a wide range of interview offers from media organisations, but has so far turned them down.
Mr Joyce has been under fire after the publication of the affair unleashed a string of questions about whether he misused parliamentary entitlements to conduct the relationship.
The decision to move Ms Campion to other ministerial offices also prompted claims the Deputy Prime Minister had breached the ministerial code of conduct - usually a sackable offence.
During the interview, Ms Campion produced payslips that showed she was paid about $133,000 a year in Mr Joyce’s office, $138,000 when she was moved to cabinet minister Matt Canavan’s office, and $135,000 when she was subsequently employed under former chief whip Damian Drum. While an increase, the figures are far less than some claims she commanded a salary of $190,000 under Senator Canavan.
An angry Mr Joyce said questions about the couple’s personal life had shifted from “inquiry to malice".
"It’s like 'I can’t get you so I’m gonna throw anything'," he said.
Asked what it meant to become a father again – Mr Joyce has four daughters with his estranged wife - the Nationals leader said: "The one thing that has deeply annoyed me is that there is somehow an inference that this child is somehow less worthy than other children, and it’s almost spoken about in the third person.
"I love my daughters. I have four beautiful daughters and I love them to death. And now I will have a son. I don’t pick winners, I’m not gonna love one more than another, but I’m not going to love one less than another either.
I don’t want our child to grow up as some sort of public display. I have to stop it from the start. It’s a fact we are having a child, it’s a fact it’s a boy, it’s not more or less loved than any of my other children.
"I don’t want to say have sympathy for me. I just want people to look clinically at the facts and basically come to the conclusion he is not getting a gold star for is personal life, but he has made a commitment, he is with her, they’re having a child, and in a 2018 world there is nothing terribly much to see there."
Mr Joyce said the pair had also decided to speak to Fairfax Media from the Armidale apartment to debunk a perception they were living for free in a “palace” provided by friend and businessman Greg Maguire.
"Mate, this is a bachelor’s pad," Mr Joyce said.
The six-month rent-free period is estimated to be worth about $14,000. On his register of interests, Mr Joyce simply declared: "Post election residual of six month tenancy on Armidale premises."
The couple say they have spent just 14 nights in the apartment since early January but need to move out.
Asked why the pair were leaving, Mr Joyce said the address was now widely known and media intrusion had played a part. He gestured to the front gate, where a local television crew had been waiting that morning.
"Because of that," he said.
He also criticised News Corp for running a picture of a heavily-pregnant Ms Campion on the front page of The Daily Telegraph.
Ms Campion – who has missed medical appointments because she has not wanted to go out in public - plans to focus on setting up a nursery again when the couple find a new home.
Mr Joyce did not know if he would face a spill motion when Parliament resumed next week, but said he's "never scared of democracy”.
The Nationals leader has refused to resign despite Liberal and some Nationals MPs publicly conceding the affair has damaged the government, and Mr Turnbull's blistering condemnation of his deputy's personal behaviour.
"The tide will turn because people will get bored of it," Mr Joyce said.
“This should be a very simple story - a bloke whose marriage broke down is in a relationship with another person and they are having a child. Now it seems to have gone into some sort of morality discussion. That’s between me and my God. I can understand how Natalie can be angry, absolutely, but how it’s other people’s business, I don’t know."
The pair insisted that Senator Canavan and Mr Drum did not know about the couple’s relationship when Ms Campion left his office to work for them.
“No one ever asked us. Don’t ask, don’t tell. I wasn’t in breach of the code [of conduct]. We weren’t partners. I knew the ministerial code,” Mr Joyce said.
“She wasn’t my partner when she started, she wasn’t my partner when she worked for Matt. We didn’t breach the code.”
Asked when Mr Turnbull first learnt about the relationship, Mr Joyce said: "He never asked any direct questions and to be honest, if I believed it was private, I wouldn’t have told him either."
“If I think something is private and not in breach of the code, I don’t think it’s other people’s business.”
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann is acting Prime Minister while Mr Joyce is on leave and Mr Turnbull is overseas.
HOW IT UNFOLDED:
Barnaby Joyce; his affair, his love child and his bromance with Malcolm Turnbull have been making headlines A LOT over the past two weeks.
There’s been a lot of articles, press conferences and opinion pieces.
To make life simple we've thrown it all in this article to keep you on track.
The beginning ...
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who revealed in parliament last year that his 24-year marriage had broken down,is expecting a baby with a former member of his staff.
Just hours after the Daily Telegraph confirmed the suspected rumours, Natalie Joyce spoke out about the affair and the expecting love child.
That evening Mr Joyce appeared on ABC’s 7.30 report and said his marriage break down was the greatest failure of his life.
Speculation on whether Mr Joyce would stand down from Deputy Prime Minister, his porfolios and his position in its entirety started almost straight after the news was confirmed. Northern Tablelands state member Adam Marshall’s name was thrown in the mix.
National Party Members feared the pregnancy could hurt the membership numbers.
The middle ...
Once the news had settled the investigating began, all of the Deputy Prime Minister’s official documents were called to examine.
He came under scrutiny for the accommodation he was living in rent free in Armidale during the by-election.
Questions were asked about when the Member for New England would be returning back to his electorate following the baby news.
More rumours circulated about misconduct, an article was published in The Daily Telegraph and Mr Joyce said the article was “not the truth” and that he reserved “his legal rights”.
The Tamworth public seem divided about the Deputy Prime Minister’s behaviour, although they all agree they’d like to see the government get on with governing.
What’s happening now?
In the midst of this scandal, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has gone to the United States.
After much deliberation, it was decided Mr Joyce would go on leave for the period Mr Turnbull is in the states.
Before he left though Mr Turnbull altered the Ministerial Code of Conduct banning all ministers from having sex with a staffer.
Other members of the Nationals Party have been asked if there will be a leadership spill.
Riverina member Michael McCormack said ‘there is no vacancy’ in the top job, although this is after he was asked eight times about the Nationals Party leadership at a press conference on Monday.
On Tuesday Barnaby Joyce announced he wasn’t go anywhere. He blasted suggestions he should be ousted as Nationals leader as a "witch-hunt".