A besieged Barnaby Joyce is facing further scrutiny over claims a high-paying job was created for his girlfriend to move her out of his office.
It’s been reported Vikki Campion, who is expecting her first child with the deputy Prime Minister, was given a high-paying role as a senior advisor working on digital and social media for Resources Minister Matt Canavan.
The move was reportedly made to move Ms Campion out of Joyce’s office after the environment became increasingly uncomfortable when knowledge of their affair began to surface.
While Ms Campion was considered suitably qualified for the position, it was not previously held by a full-time employee and hasn’t been filled since her departure, the Daily Telegraph reports.
The 50-year-old appeared on national television to admit his marriage had broken down after news of his new relationship made headlines around the country.
The staunchly conservative Joyce, who has campaigned in support of traditional marriage values and has four daughters with his "devastated" wife of 24 years Natalie, insisted his private life should not be discussed in the public arena.
"I don't think it's right, I don't think it would be right for any other politician," he said, while insisting he had never used public funds to conduct the relationship.
"I think you have to make a distinct decision to not turn Australia into the United States of America."
However, former Labor leader Mark Latham told Sunrise on Friday morning that he had concerns about the newly-created position.
"For all the people that work hard and pay their taxes, they are not expecting the facilitation of Barnaby Joyce getting a bit of extra nookie on the side in Canberra," he said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would not be drawn in, saying he did not want to publicly discuss private matters.
"It is a tough and distressing episode and I am very conscious - Lucy and I are very conscious - of the hurt occasioned to Natalie and their daughters in particular," he told reporters in Canberra on Friday.
"So that's why I don't want to add or contribute to the discussion about it."
A spokesman for Senator Canvan said Ms Campion was suitably qualified for the role "given her long history as a media professional".
“Ms Campion was employed in Senator Canavan’s office in April 2017 to fulfil a specific communications role," the statement read.
“Ms Campion worked in Senator Canavan’s office up until all staff had their existing contracts terminated when Senator Canavan resigned from Cabinet in July 2017.”