Last updatedÂ 06:28, August 7 2018
Former Australian deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce says he became so depressed at the knowledge he had hurt so many people and caused so much scandal that he contemplated dying.
“I wanted to go without anybody knowing,” he says.
He admits spending years in Canberra “wandering and getting closer to other women” before meeting his current partner, Vikki Campion.
“When I was at home I was a lie, and when I was in Canberra I was ashamed,” he writes in his new “warts and all” autobiography, Weatherboard and Iron.
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Joyce’s wife Natalie – mother of their four daughters and from whom he is now estranged – “demanded, with our relationship in serious trouble, that I seek help”.
But he ignored the advice and chose his own medicine: alcohol and carousing in Canberra’s bars.
“Winston Churchill had his black dog: mine was a half-crazed cattle dog, biting everything that came near the yard,” he writes.
“But the downside comes as well, when you get sad in the afternoon because it’s the afternoon and there are not enough clouds in the skyâ€¦
“When you stop thinking about how sad it will be when you have gone, to thinking, I have hurt so many that I want to go without anybody knowing.”
On many sleepless nights, he says, he walked at midnight to pray at a “special” rock he’d found on Red Hill, above Canberra.
Eventually, Joyce said, he sought help from a psychiatrist, who diagnosed depression and advised he should get structure into his life if he did not want to slide further “into the darkness”.
That structure, he said, had come later with the growth in his relationship with former staffer, Campion, and the birth of their son, Sebastian.
But the most obvious sign that his mental health was “at the edge” was still to come: Joyce’s remaining friends became seriously concerned when he gave anÂ interview questioning his own paternity in the weeks before Campion gave birth.
“A few old football friends rang and said, ‘don’t move, we’re coming to see you’,” he said.
Joyce puts this “terrible mistake” down to “perverse logic” – he didn’t want to reward the relentless media with any details.
“Somehow I thought that creating doubt by not having all the details might switch this frenzy off,” he wrote. “You are not logical when under intense pressure for weeks.”
Joyce dedicates his new book,Â Weatherboard and Iron: Politics, the Bush and Me, to “my beloved daughters and son”.
“I wish I could have given you a life outside the spotlight I turned on. I wanted the best for you but was blinded in the glare of the exertion.”
He also dedicates it to Campion, “my at times, typist, editor, critic and ever-patient partner, sitting tortured behind her keyboard trying to make sense of me.”
Joyce said he wrote most of the book over five or six years.
Its primary purpose was to draw attention to rural Australians who struggled and felt either ignored or shunned by wider society.
“But I realised that for people to want to read the book and get the real message, you must put some salt in the mix,” he said. “If I was to write a book entitled ‘agricultural policies for rural Australia’ no one would read it.
“So I was prepared to include the salacious to draw people to the core message.”
One of the subjects he does not confront in the book is the allegation he had rorted his travel entitlements by spending more out-of-sessions nights in Canberra than other ministers. He has been cleared by a recent investigation.
“The truth is, the one place I felt most secure was in my office, working, and that’s what I was doing,” he said.
Joyce said he was motivated to write his book because most politicians failed to understand the lives and cares of poor, mainly white and rural Australians who had grown up around him when he was a boy.
“They’re not Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, they’re not [former Australian PM John] Howard’s battlers and they’re not [formerÂ Australian PM Tony]Â Abbott’s tradies,” he said.
“They are more readily identified by where and how they live: in weatherboard houses with iron roofs.
“They struggle to pay their power bills, the drought knocks them around because a lot of them are rural workers. They live on the periphery and it’s apparently alright to kick the s…Â out of them because they’re poor and mostly white.
“In the Longman byelection, 16 per cent of people voted for a lady [Pauline Hanson] who was on holidays in the Irish Sea. If that doesn’t tell you something about people who think no one in power cares about them, then you’re not listening.”
And Barnaby Joyce?
“I feel 100 times more at ease than I was, a hell of a lot more in control,” he said.
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Â –Â Sydney Morning Herald