Barnaby Joyce says revelations he chased women while drinking heavily and suffering depression and suicidal thoughts wonât surprise âanybodyâ who knows him well, including his estranged wife Natalie.
âPeople close to you know your life better than anybody else,â the former deputy prime minister told The New DailyÂ via phoneÂ from Sydney on Wednesday.
The public admissions of his âsalaciousâ private life are âa small partâ of Mr Joyceâs autobiographyÂ Weatherboard & Iron: Politics, the bush and me,Â which he is spruiking during a packed three days of publicity this week.
They are at odds with the morally-confident image Mr Joyce projected for decades, but he shies away from agreeing he lived a double life.
âLook, that might be a bit over the top,â said Mr Joyce, 51, who said the isolation of political life in Canberra saw him stray.
âMy marriage came apart. Thatâs self evident,â he said, explaining that âthe higher you go in any form of politics, the lonelier you get. The circle of friends becomes smaller.
âI acknowledge there were issues with depression and they were serious enough to see a psychiatrist and evident enough for him to make a diagnosis.â
Mr Joyce revealed that at his lowest ebb, he would visit a âsacred rockâ behind where he used to live. âIâd stop there and pray,âÂ he told The New Daily.
At one point, he just wanted to go away and die, he says in the book.
âWhen I was at home I was a lie, and when I was in Canberra I was ashamed,â he wrote, calling his mental health issues âa half-crazed cattle dogÂ biting everything that came near the yardâ.
In the past 12 months, Mr Joyceâs private world has been one out of the box: a secret affair to pregnant former staffer Vikki Campion revealed; the bust up of his long marriage; the apparent estrangement from his family; the birth of a baby son.
His professional travails have also been extraordinary.
Criticised by his own party, he resigned from the deputy prime ministership in February after a public excoriationÂ by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Asked if itâs liberating to have his skeletons out of the closet by his own hand, Mr Joyce agreed thereâs a âcathartic componentâ to the book, and toldÂ The New Daily heâs âhappy, in a more structured placeâ now.
Part of that is his latest crack at fatherhood, which he says heâs âbetter at this timeâ with Sebastian, four months, than he was when his daughters Bridgette, Julia, Caroline and OdetteÂ were growing up.
Mr Joyce confirmed he still has contact with his daughters but rarely sees them, and admitted healing their fractured relationship will happen âover a long period of timeâ.
Second time around, with his little boy, âitâs one of those jobs you never thought youâd do again, like going back in a shearing shed and saying, âThank God I donât have to pick up one of those againâ, but you get back into the swing of it.
âYou know the pressures your partner is under and I get a lot of joy out of coming home and cooking dinner,â he said.
âIt doesnât worry me to bloody clean the house and help.â
So when Mr Joyce â who toldÂ The New DailyÂ he is happiest by himself, âmustering sheepâ or bush walking â tosses his signature hat on a chair and strides into the kitchen to whip up dinner, what does he cook?
First up, he asks Ms Campion what she wants: âIf itâs fish, itâs fish. If itâs pasta, itâs pasta. Thereâs heaps of vegetables. Vik is a really good cook as well, but it helps me switch off.
âI turn on the stove and stare out the window and my head goes to a different place. Thatâs how I relax.â
On the publicity trail, Mr Joyce said if he lived his life again, he would do it differently, but canât say what he would change:Â âOh God, I donât know. Thatâs like saying what your favourite movie is. Too many to choose from.â
Despite apparently laying some of the blame for his family schism on the pressures of politics, Mr Joyce said he will continue in public life â âIf I donât, who will?â â and wouldnât rule out a possible return to the Nationalsâ top job.
âIâve been the leader in the past so itâs ridiculous to say you donât want to be the leader,â he said.
âBut Iâm not touting for the job. I will do whatever Iâm asked to do.â
Before Mr Joyceâs spontaneous combustion, the National Party seemed a safe harbour with no visible ructions. Is it still? âThe party is united in purpose. There are different views but no party is without that,â he said.
There are âegosâ, he said, but âWhatâs unusual about that? Itâs not a monastery.â
Asked if he will ever have a beer in a country pub again with Mr Turnbull, Mr Joyce says their relationship is purely professional.
âAre we close personal friends? Iâm not going around to his place for dinner, circumstances of the past.
âBut if he made a call, I would definitely take it.â
Mr Joyce toldÂ The New DailyÂ he covers off inÂ Weatherboard & IronÂ what happened on the night in 2016 when former West Australian Rural Woman of the Year Catherine Marriott accused him of an unwanted interaction outside a Canberra hotel.
âI do mention that I stand by what Iâve said all the time,â he toldÂ The New Daily.Â
âThe way it was presented was spurious and defamatory, and that issue is being dealt with.â
OK, but what actually happened?
âIâm not going to go through that.â
Weatherboard & Iron: Politics, the bush and me, published by New Holland, is on sale now for $32.99.