Wednesday 12 December 2018

Australian deputy PM resigns amid sex scandals

Barnaby Joyce resigned on Friday (Rob Griffith/AP)
Barnaby Joyce resigned on Friday (Rob Griffith/AP)

Jonathan Pearlman in Sydney

Barnaby Joyce, Australia's deputy prime minister, has resigned after a torrid fortnight in which he faced claims of sexual harassment and was forced to admit that he had an affair with a staffer, who is pregnant.

Blaming his demise on "leaking" by his political foes, Mr Joyce said the harassment allegations were untrue and he was resigning because his wife Natalie, his four daughters and his new partner, Vikki Campion - and the government - all needed a "circuit-breaker".

"It's incredibly important that there be a circuit-breaker, not just for the parliament, but more importantly, a circuit-breaker for Vikki, for my unborn child, my daughters and for (wife) Nat," he told reporters. "This has got to stop. It's not fair on them."

Mr Joyce (50) is the leader of the National party, the rural-based member of the ruling coalition, and has been a popular and outspoken champion of rural causes.

But his career began to unravel earlier this month when a Sydney tabloid revealed that his former media adviser, Ms Campion (33), was pregnant and due to have a baby in April.

Mr Joyce, a devout Catholic who opposed legalising same-sex marriage, has since faced a barrage of stories about his personal affairs, including allegations he misused travel expenses to be with Ms Campion.

He received little support from Malcolm Turnbull, the prime minister, who described his conduct as "appalling" and announced a new ban on ministers having sex with staff. Mr Joyce responded by describing the prime minister as "inept".

However, Mr Turnbull, who leads the Liberal party, was powerless to remove Mr Joyce as leader of the Nationals.

In recent days, Mr Joyce's party colleagues began to publicly withdraw support, culminating in the party's president admitting that a woman had made a sexual harassment complaint against Mr Joyce.

Insisting any such complaint should be referred to police, Mr Joyce said: "The leaking, the backgrounding, it will destroy not only our government, it will destroy any government."

Mr Joyce says he will remain in parliament.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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