By Stephen Gibbs for Daily Mail Australia
David Panton was sometimes mischievously described as Julie Bishop’s handbag, as if it was just another one of her expensive fashion accessories.
During Bishop’s time as Foreign Secretary, the property developer was regularly pictured smiling by his side at glittering social gatherings, but barely said a word in public.
Panton was largely unknown when she first appeared with Bishop at the 2014 Melbourne Cup, a year after Prime Minister Tony Abbott appointed her Foreign Secretary.
Mr Panton, 61, met Ms Bishop, 65, when she was in the middle of her political career, as Australia’s foreign minister.
They had been introduced by Bishop’s close friend and retired Liberal politician, Bruce Baird, and shared an interest in fitness and health.
A seemingly endless series of glamorous outings would follow – including repeated invitations to marquees at Flemington Racecourse, opening parties and fashion shows.
Together the couple attended the AFL Grand Final and the famous Portsea Polo in Melbourne – where Bishop also carried a $7,350 Louis Vuitton Petite Malle handbag.
There were seats next to Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban and Vogue editor Anna Wintour at the Australian Open, and a prime position to watch Carlton play on the West Coast with the U.S. vice president of the era, Joe Biden, at the MCG.
Panton even sat next to Bishop at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in front of some of the world’s most powerful leaders in 2015.
The couple spent the last night of this year at Melbourne’s Crown Casino where they were pictured with James Packer before the billionaire’s then-girlfriend Mariah Carey performed.
When asked why she fell in love with the property developer, Ms Bishop told a reporter: It’s obvious. Have you seen him?’
Two years later, US First Lady Melania Trump assumed Panton was Australia’s foreign secretary when the couple attended another UN meeting, according to Bishop.
In October 2019, the couple attended Perth’s famous Lexus Ball where radio announcer Basil Zempilas – now the town’s mayor – tried the old joke about Panton’s status on Bishop’s arm.
“That’s a nice handbag you have tonight, Julie,” Zempilas told Bishop as he moved through the crowd.
“Thanks, Basil, glad you noticed,” Bishop replied.
Zempilas: “Not you, David, I mean the real purse.”
In 2019, Ms Bishop told the Sydney Morning Herald how she fell in love with the property developer and their connection to their love of health and fitness.
The couple’s long-distance relationship survived the worst of the Covid-19 lockdowns with her in Perth and him on the east coast for seven months.
“It’s not great, but that’s all you can do because he can’t get in here, and I can’t go in without having to get an exemption,” Bishop told The Daily Telegraph. era.
“It’s very difficult but I know a lot of families have been separated in this way, it’s difficult.”
In April last year, Bishop and Panton were seen at the state funeral for designer Carla Zampatti’s funeral and a week later dined with Prince Charles in London at St James’s Palace.
On July 1, they went to dinner at the Eastbank restaurant in Sydney’s Macquarie Street, where Panton apparently told Bishop that their relationship had run its course.
The two still have plenty on their plates to keep them occupied while they go their separate ways.