Joyce's partner crook in Rocky hotel while chopper waited
BARNABY Joyce kept a taxpayer-funded Royal Australian Navy chopper waiting on the tarmac in flood-ravaged Queensland to attend to his then media adviser, now lover, Vikki Campion.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal the Nationals leader, while Acting Prime Minister last April, was about 45 minutes late for lift-off to inspect the damaged areas in the Rockhampton region.
When Mr Joyce did arrive, it was without his aide, Ms Campion, who is understood to have remained at the Empire Hotel in Rockhampton, unwell.
Mr Joyce's loyal supporter, Nationals chief whip Michelle Landry, who accompanied Mr Joyce on the tour, admitted yesterday he was late to the Royal Australian Navy helicopter flight on Sunday, April 9, last year and that Ms Campion was sick.
She played down the cause and length of the wait, insisting he was a busy man and there were many reasons he could have been delayed.
"What senior politicians are ever on time? They get caught up on phone calls," Ms Landry said.
"I certainly don't think it was an hour. It may have been 20 minutes or so. I honestly don't know … We were getting on a helicopter to see victims of the cyclone. The last thing on my mind was timing. Their houses had been annihilated. People had nearly lost their lives."
Paperwork from April last year shows the helicopter was scheduled to take off at 9am but only made moves to take off around 9.45am. They arrived at their first destination at Clarke Creek around 10.15am.
At the end of the flood tour, Mr Joyce left the airport and went to the Empire Hotel where Ms Campion was laid up, before Ms Landry drove him back to the airport for his return flight home to Tamworth.
"One of his staffers (was) sick and I offered she could come to my home and she decided to stay where she was. I took them all back out to the airport and the staff member caught a commercial flight home the next day," Ms Landry said.
Ms Campion had accompanied Mr Joyce during the flood tour of Rockhampton the previous day, on April 8, after travelling with him from Proserpine to Gladstone on an RAAF plane. The incident caused consternation among the Nationals and, later that same month, Ms Campion moved from Mr Joyce's office to Senator Matt Canavan's.
Others on the trip told The Daily Telegraph Mr Joyce was in a foul mood throughout the day, but turned on the charm for the cameras.
"He was grumpy, late and cross all day and yet lauded as a champion for going out there," one source said.
Local media crew who attended the flight were also late after confusion about which airport the chopper was leaving from.
Mr Joyce's spokesman said any delay in taking off was caused by a confusion about helicopter takeoff points, with some members of the travelling party inadvertently waiting at a different helicopter pad in a different part of the city.
He said Mr Joyce was at the correct takeoff point and had time to do radio interviews while waiting.