High-Level Affair Erupts Into Open Conflict Between Australian Premier And His Deputy

The prime minister announced a change in the country’s ministerial code of conduct banning sexual relations between government ministers and their staff

Australia gripped by public morals row as PM bans sex between ministers and staff

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on Friday criticized Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's remarks regarding the former's affairs with a staff member, provoking further escalation of political crisis within the country's government.

An uncomfortable gulf has been exposed between the Prime Minister and his deputy, after Malcolm Turnbull delivered a scathing dressing down in which he refused to endorse Barnaby Joyce and told him to consider his position.

Turnbull called Joyce's actions a "shocking error of judgment", but he stopped short of directly calling for him to quit.

"I am not here to moralise, but we must recognise that whatever may have been acceptable, or to which a blind eye was turned in the past, today in 2018, it is not acceptable for a minister to have a sexual relationship is with somebody who works for them", Mr Turnbull said yesterday.

Mr Joyce (50) has rejected repeated calls to resign following media revelations that he left his wife and four children after conceiving a baby with a 32-year-old staff member.

"There is no effort by me or anyone else in the Liberal Party to influence the National Party or its deliberations in any way at all, and there has been no criticism of the National Party whatsoever", he said in a brief statement today at Launceston, Tasmania.

Mr. Joyce admitted to the affair after a picture of his pregnant lover was splashed across the front page of The Sydney Daily Telegraph, and has publicly apologised to his wife Natalie and their daughters. Mr Williams is right, it's up to the National Party.

However, Turnbull said that Joyce would be taking a week of leave and not be acting prime minister when he travels overseas next week.

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Joyce also accused Turnbull of improperly intervening in the National Party.

Joyce was angered by the comments and said that the PM did not need to make any more public comments about the affair as it was already public knowledge. "I believe they were in many instances inept and most definitely in many instances unnecessary", Joyce said.

Joyce is deputy prime minister because of a longstanding agreement between Turnbull's conservative Liberal Party and the Nationals.

None of the questions being pursued by Labor now relate directly to Mr Joyce's affair, but instead are focused on questions of propriety.

"With regards (to) comments made by the prime minister yesterday at his press conference, I have to say that in many instances ... they caused further harm", he said.

"All I want to have happen is ministers get on with the job of making decisions, creating jobs, making sure our economy is strong, delivering decent services and preparing the budget mess we inherited".

In a move interpreted by some as punishing his deputy, Turnbull announced Thursday that Joyce would not become acting prime minister next week when Turnbull travels to the United States.

For days, Turnbull had circled the wagons, employing what The Sydney Morning Herald described in an editorial as "unedifying black-letter lawyerisms about what constituted a "partner" in the ministerial code of conduct".

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