Barnaby Joyce takes personal leave amid fallout over TV interview

Australian politician Barnaby Joyce has gone on 11 weeks’ leave, hours after defending his decision to accept payment for a joint TV interview with his partner.

The Nationals backbencher applied to the National Party Whip for time off, six weeks after he and his partner Vikki Campion welcomed a baby boy.

Labor has granted the MP a “pair” – meaning Mr Joyce’s absence will not affect votes in the Lower House.

He is due to return to Parliament on 13 August.

“Obviously he’s been under a fair bit of stress in the last six or 12 months, and he’s taking some time with his family, so I can understand that,” Nationals frontbencher Darren Chester said.

“Everyone from time to time needs … to take a break and reassess the situation.

“I think Barnaby can come back stronger than ever, but I think it’s appropriate [he takes leave] and I respect him for taking a break now.”

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Fellow Nationals MP Andrew Broad said the Mr Joyce had been through “a pretty harrowing time”.

“If he needs some leave, give him some leave, leave him alone, and hopefully he’ll come back and contribute to the direction of the country in his time,” Mr Broad said.

“The thing we need to be always be mindful of is that members of Parliament are people.”

The backbencher’s decision to take leave follows criticism of the couple’s decision to accept payment for a joint television interview.

The interview will be broadcast next Sunday night on Channel Seven with payment reportedly as much as $A150,000.

The former deputy prime minister defended the move, saying the pair had “tried for privacy” but their attempts “did not work”, and that it was Ms Campion’s decision to accept payment.

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Colleagues are dismayed with Mr Joyce’s involvement in the lucrative sit-down interview, with Financial Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer saying “most Australians are pretty disgusted by it”.

In an excerpt of the interview aired on Tuesday evening, Ms Campion said: “I couldn’t help it, you can’t help who you fall in love with.”

Late last year, Mr Joyce confirmed he had split with his wife of 24 years, and in April he announced he and Ms Campion had a son.

The baby boy, named Sebastian, is Mr Joyce’s fifth child.