Published: Sat, February 17, 2018
World | By Camille Rivera

Sex scandal rocks Australian govt as deputy PM impregnates aide

Sex scandal rocks Australian govt as deputy PM impregnates aide

Australia's government was engulfed by bitter political infighting on Friday over the handling of a sex scandal involving the deputy prime minister, which experts warned could threaten the future of the ruling coalition.

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

But Turnbull responded Thursday by banning his ministers from having sex with staff.

After impregnating his media adviser Vikki Campion with whom he was having a long-running affair, Mr Joyce's "deeply personal" crisis has become something of a public pickle.

Mr Joyce leads the rural-based National Party, the junior partner in the centre-right government led by Mr Turnbull's Liberal Party, a political alliance that has existed since 1923.

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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.

Many members of the National Party believe the PM's comments were aimed at making Joyce resign.

His affair with Campion was known throughout the media and political establishment for many months, including when Joyce was forced to quit his parliamentary seat past year and stand for re-election as part of the reactionary nationalist witch hunt over members of parliament having dual citizenships.

Joyce hit back at Turnbull on Friday morning, saying the PM's comments were "inept", "unnecessary" and "damaging". The conservative parties have formed every non-Labor government since World War Two.

It was the same when Turnbull was fighting predecessor Tony Abbott for control of the Liberal Party - Turnbull's left-leaning supporters against Abbott's harder right.

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It was clearly an attempt to get Mr Joyce to go, but drove a wedge between the two, and fractured the coalition partners.

The comments of Prime Minister is seen as a call for the National Party leader to resign from cabinet, but Joyce today said he had the support of his colleagues to continue. "We are our own independent political unit".

Turnbull's decision to effectively block him from being acting prime minister next week is a vote of no confidence in Joyce's ability to emerge unscathed from the scandal, and a signal to the Nationals that they must act.

He refused to provide further comments on the saga with Joyce.

Australia's governing coalition fractured today after the prime minister and his deputy, Barnaby Joyce, turned on each other over an adulterous affair that has gripped the nation.

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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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