Australia’s scandal-hit deputy PM quits

Created 24 February 2018
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Australia’s scandal-hit deputy leader Barnaby Joyce announced Feb. 23 he was quitting and moving to the backbench amid claims of sexual harassment and controversy over an affair with a now-pregnant former aide.

Australia’s scandal-hit deputy PM quits

 

Australia’s scandal-hit deputy leader Barnaby Joyce announced Feb. 23 he was quitting and moving to the backbench amid claims of sexual harassment and controversy over an affair with a now-pregnant former aide.

 

Joyce, whose National Party rules alongside Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberals, has been front-page news in Australia for two weeks since it emerged he had left his wife of 24 years for his younger former media adviser, who is now expecting their baby boy.

The 50-year-old had insisted he would ride out the storm but his position became untenable on Feb. 23 when a sexual harassment complaint against him, which he denies, was lodged with the party by an unnamed woman.

Joyce said at a press conference in Armidale, his rural New South Wales seat, that he would step down as Nationals leader and deputy prime minister at a party meeting on Feb. 26.

“It’s incredibly important that there be a circuit-breaker, not just for the parliament, but more importantly, a circuit-breaker for Vikki [his lover], for my unborn child, my daughters and for Nat [his wife],” he said.

“This has got to stop. It’s not fair on them. It’s just completely and utterly unwarranted, the sort of observation that’s happened.”

Joyce, who has also been criticized for living in an apartment rent-free with now partner Vikki Campion after splitting with his wife, was due to be the acting prime minister this week with Turnbull meeting U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington.

But he opted to take leave.

With Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also out of the country, the role has been assumed by Senate leader Mathias Cormann, who said ahead of Joyce’s decision that any harassment claim must be taken seriously.

“Any allegation of sexual harassment is a very serious allegation,” he told reporters.

“I understand that a formal complaint has been made, and that that complaint is being investigated.”

Joyce called the claim “spurious and defamatory” and said he wanted it investigated by the authorities.

“I have asked that that be referred to the police,” he said, while admitting it had been “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

“It’s quite evident that you can’t go to the despatch box with issues like that surrounding you.”            

Last week a furious Turnbull, who relies on the smaller National Party to govern, savaged Joyce for “a shocking error of judgement,” leading his deputy to fire back that the prime minister was “inept.

”In a statement from Washington, Turnbull Feb. 23 thanked Joyce for being “a fierce advocate for rural and regional Australia,” while insisting the Nationals-Liberal coalition was “undiminished” by the scandal.

But Labor opposition leader Bill Shorten called it “fundamentally damaged” and accused Turnbull of “an atrocious lack of judgment.”“The fact that this scandal has dragged on for 16 days has been damaging to the government, but more importantly, the country,” he said.

 

Source: HurriyetdailyNews

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