"HE PINCHED me on the bum," was the response of a wag in the Wooli Bowling Club when The Daily Examiner called to find out what the locals remember of Barnaby Joyce's visit last month.
"That's not true, of course," said the barman, who was well aware of the hot water Deputy Prime Minister Mr Joyce now finds himself in over his affair with his pregnant former staffer Vikki Campion.
Several club patrons recalled Mr Joyce arriving one day for a beer and to order Chinese food from the club's restaurant.
"He kept it pretty quiet," the barman said. "I wasn't on, but the girl who was said he basically had a beer while he waited for his food.
"He only had a few words with her. He wasn't interested in talking to anyone else."
Patrons at the club said the gloss was gone from the man who could be Australia's Acting Prime Minister next week.
"I don't really think there's been any gloss on him since the by-election," one said.
"He's actually cost all of us - taxpayers - a lot of money. What he's doing now, well it's just a bit rich isn't it?"
Mr Joyce and his lover stayed rent-free at the $4000 a week Pacific Dawn Luxury Apartments owned by a Joyce friend, Tamworth businessman Greg Maguire.
Since separating from his wife last year, Mr Joyce has been staying at a three- bedroom Armidale property owned by Mr Maguire, who waived the rent for six months, saving Mr Joyce about $14,000.
Mr Joyce and Ms Campion stayed at the Wooli bolthole after a north Queensland trip where they were seen swimming at a popular Townsville rock pool and dining on the seafront at Palm Cove, north of Cairns.
Mr Maguire came to wider prominence in 2004 when he was investigated by the Australian Federal Police after Mr Joyce's predecessor as member for New England, independent Tony Windsor, alleged Mr Maguire tried to bribe him to quit politics.
Mr Maguire consistently denied any wrongdoing. The AFP and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions decided against laying charges because the CDPP determined "none of the versions of the conversations related by any of the witnesses can amount to an 'offer to give or confer' a benefit".
Last week Mr Maguire told The Daily Telegraph he was "helping a mate out" by letting Mr Joyce stay in the Armidale house rent-free.
He said Mr Joyce had offered to pay.
When News Corp asked Mr Maguire about the Wooli accommodation he declined to comment.