‘Her lover threw her under a bus’
ENOUGH. Enough now.
We do not need to hear another word about Barnaby Joyce's love child.
Whether the baby being carried by Vikki Campion is his or - as he has now revealed - possibly another man's, it is no longer of public interest.
Mr Joyce has said he is not sure if he is the biological father of Ms Campion's baby as it is a "grey area". The former deputy prime minister has said he was physically apart from Ms Campion for most of the period when the baby would have been conceived.
Mr Joyce is wrong. This is not a "grey area". It's a "no go" area. Quite why a father-of-four, a man experienced in the tumultuous days of early parenthood would trigger further stress and speculation around the subject of his unborn child is beyond comprehension.
So why am I adding to the discussion around a subject that, even as a seasoned journalist, makes me feel deeply uncomfortable?
Firstly, because Mr Joyce chose to put it into the public arena and, secondly, because I have genuine fears for this couple and their unborn baby.
Babies do not ask to be born. They are often conceived in less than ideal circumstances but their helplessness and innocence deserves the very best from us - whether as parents, extended family or society at large.
Babies need love - which undoubtedly Mr Joyce and Ms Campion are well-equipped to offer. But they also need calm, solidity, ease and parents who, in the first weeks at least, are as relaxed as they can be and focused on their care.
I'll be blunt: Mr Joyce is acting like a man on the verge of a breakdown. His behaviour is erratic and ill-considered. His reasoning for raising doubt over the child's paternity is illogical, unseemly and can only cause more distress for the expectant mother and her unborn son.
I don't know Ms Campion but I worry for her. For the duration of her pregnancy - particularly in the past few weeks - she has endured the most hideous stress.
At a time when she should be excited and delighted about impending motherhood, she is doubtless existing on fear, worry, adrenaline and shame. Now, as some are claiming, her lover has thrown her under a bus.
In the past few months Ms Campion has quit her job, fallen pregnant, been cast as a home wrecker and been reluctant to leave her home such is the media interest in her and her baby. Now the man who claims to love her has left her open to gossip and further ignominy.
Up to one in seven women experience postnatal depression; plenty have not had to endure the perinatal strain Ms Campion has suffered.
She and Mr Joyce are said to be deeply in love but it's new love, untested love - love that has yet to develop the well-worn tracks that hold a couple on course when events send them spinning.
When couples are in trouble, they need to turn inward, towards each other, not out to the world. In raising doubts about paternity - and, really, how was the media ever going to prove this baby was not Mr Joyce's - he has left her open to the most excruciating humiliation.
Everything is against this couple - their age difference, his commitment to his former family, his public profile, the ugliness that will forever colour their early love affair. I doubt I'm the only person to wonder whether their love can survive.
But there is a baby who needs protecting. A baby who deserves a life away from prying eyes. A baby whose conception, birth and early life will, regrettably, be imprinted on the internet forevermore.
This soon-to-be family needs privacy now. Their baby - and Mr Joyce has said vehemently that it is his baby irrespective of biology - will need his parents' undiluted care and attention.
It is time Mr Joyce affords his partner and son that respect.