Over halfway into his hour-long Sunday Night tell-all with partner Vikki Campion, the chickens came home to roost for former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce.
Until that point, Mr Joyce had batted away soft questions and been filmed bathing his six-week-old son Sebastian and snapping him quite deftly into little onesies. Then, boom, he was asked why he claimed in March that the paternity of Campion’s then-unborn baby was “a bit of a grey area”.
Mr Joyce, 51, tacitly agreed he had thrown Ms Campion “under the bus”, as reporter Alex Cullen put it, but said the line had been a decision he and his pregnant former media adviser had agreed on together.
At that, Ms Campion took exception. She stared at Mr Joyce and schooled him: “I didn’t say, ‘Use the words grey area’. I was deeply hurt by the grey area headline.”
To head off any further speculation about her son’s paternity, Ms Campion said Sebastian had his father’s “florid” colouring.
“I think he’s got my shape eyes, but he’s got your colour. He definitely goes florid when angry. You can tell his emotion by the colour of his skin,” she said.
While that was the first sticky moment for Mr Joyce, there were others, including admitting he knew he would “lose his job” from the time Ms Campion found out she was pregnant in mid-2017.
“As soon as Vikki was having Seb, I knew the day would come when I would step down,” he said.
“I suppose towards the end I was fighting more out of spite than logic.”
Even so, he went on to contest a byelection without revealing his personal situation, saying, “To be quite frank I couldn’t give a s–t about the political ramifications, really.”
During the sitdown, which Seven paid a reported $150,000 to secure, Ms Campion apologised several times to “innocent parties” who were “dragged into” what Sunday Night called the “biggest political scandal in decades”.
But the 32-year-old also made it clear the scandal had taken its toll on her. Sensationally, she claimed she was pressured by National Party insiders to abort her baby.
“People within the Parliament … so they came to me and they said, ah, ah, they said you’re pregnant and um, you have to get an abortion”, Ms Campion said.
“And I said, ‘It’s too late, it has a heartbeat’, and they said ‘If you don’t they’re going to come after you’. And they did.”
She refused to name names: “Can I just say conservatives, people who are supposed to be conservatives? I wouldn’t want to tar and brush everyone in the National Party as like that.”
Mr Joyce had a name for the unnamed people, calling them “the absolute scum of the earth … that’s the Australian Parliament”.
Despite her horror at being pressured, Ms Campion admitted she was “overwhelmed” when she discovered late last winter she was pregnant, and “agonised” for “weeks and months” about whether to keep the baby.
“I thought maybe I would take matters into my own hands and basically save everything from happening,” she said.
She considered having an abortion, then moving overseas and forgetting “everything had ever happened”, saying “I bought medicine online. I tried, and I couldn’t go through with that”.
Mr Joyce saw only one outcome: “I don’t believe in abortion so I just knew straight away at that point … I was going to lose my job as deputy prime minister”.
Before resigning as Deputy Prime Minister in February, he broke the news of his impending fatherhood to estranged wife Natalie and their daughters. “I told Nat. I wanted to make sure she heard it from me, not anybody else, and I’d done the wrong thing. It’s a very hard conversation. I had hurt the girls, there’s no doubt about that.”
The couple hedged around saying exactly when their affair began, but Sunday Night put it at late 2016, when Mr Joyce and Ms Campion were working together and things became “very slowly” romantic, she said.
Who made the first move? “I’m not going to answer you,” said Mr Joyce, who also wouldn’t be drawn when asked if a “suspicious” Natalie had a “confrontation” with Ms Campion in Tamworth.
“I know how to stop a question,” he said, but despite counselling Ms Campion on air – “You don’t have to answer, darling” – he didn’t know how to stop her from having her say.
“I can’t repeat the words on television,” she said about the scene with Natalie. “Of course, we both know what happened that day and I don’t think it’s relevant for everyone else.”
The couple said the money from their interview will go into a trust fund for Sebastian’s education, with Ms Campion saying her son is worth “everything” that led to his birth.
Mr Joyce joked his son is somehow at fault in the whole scenario.
“You look at Sebastian and think, ‘Boy, man you caused some problems’.”