Saturday, 21 July, 2018

Sex scandal exposes faultlines in Australia coalition

Barnaby Joyce and Christopher Pyne Related readingMinister staff sex ban'incredibly disappointing: Pyne
Nellie Chapman | 18 February, 2018, 11:12

Despite holding crisis talks with Malcolm Turnbull in Sydney on Saturday, the Deputy Prime Minister continues to "frustrate" the country's leader.

The party has been divided by members planning to rid their leader, while others have praised Mr Joyce.

"Mr Joyce's assistant minister Damian Drum confided the LNP was now in a "very hard situation" but that "(Mr Joyce) has earned the opportunity to see this through".

Turnbull refused to comment on Joyce's criticism but the tiff fueled pressure on him to sack his deputy, which would have put the coalition government's razor-thin majority at risk ahead of the prime minister's overseas travel.

The former Prime Minister also questioned Mr Turnbull's "sex ban" barring relationships between politicians and their staff, saying the existing code of conduct was sufficient.

LNP MP Luke Howarth insisted "everyone is expendable ... the National Party is bigger than Barnaby Joyce". "Without attributing judgment to anyone, it's just got to end", Queensland LNP senator Ian Macdonald said. "There is no going back now for either of them".

Asked about his current relations with Mr Turnbull, Mr Joyce said: "I am intending to make sure that, like all relationships, this relationship gets back onto an even keel".

'Comments by the Prime Minister yesterday at his press conference...in many instances, they caused further harm, ' he said.

"I believe they were in many instances inept and most definitely in many instances unnecessary".

Political analysts said the ban would do little beyond giving Turnbull additional political ammunition.

'Neither I nor my colleagues have made any criticism of the National Party, expressing views of disapproval or criticism of Barnaby's own conduct.

The prime minister also announced an overhaul of the ministerial code and barred senior lawmakers from sexual relations with their staff.

Another senior National, the assistant minister to Mr Joyce, Damian Drum, said he still backed his boss but acknowledged the party was split and there were arguments on both sides.

Mr Christensen said there were far more important issues than "who's shagging who in Canberra".

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten seized on Mr Joyce's assessment of the prime minister to repeatedly refer to the "inept" government during his speech at the Tasmanian Labor election campaign launch.

Nationals backbencher Llew O'Brien said Mr Joyce is the "best bloke for the job". The deputy prime minister position is traditionally given to the Nationals leader under long-standing arrangements between the parties.

Having weathered revelations he was expecting a baby with his former staffer Vikki Campion, Joyce's future hinged on whether he could explain the creation of a series of high-paying jobs for his now-partner Ms Campion.

The outspoken social conservative admitted in December he was separated from his wife of 24 years, Natalie, and he has since publicly apologised to her and their four daughters.

"The more people try and dictate to the Nationals, the stronger the resolve will be to be in charge of our own destiny".