Australian PM lambasts deputy, bans sex between ministers, staff

By Danielle Haynes  |  Updated Feb. 15, 2018 at 3:18 PM
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Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull banned Cabinet ministers from having sexual relationships with staffers Thursday as he publicly took his deputy prime minister to task for an extramarital affair with a former media adviser.

Turnbull said Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce displayed a "shocking error of judgment" and inflicted "terrible hurt and humiliation" on his family. Joyce had an affair with staffer Vikki Campion, who is now pregnant with his child.

Joyce announced Wednesday he was taking leave to deal with the fallout of the affair as senators from various parties voted in favor of a motion to ask the deputy to resign.

"I think he needs that time, he needs that time to reflect, he needs that time to seek forgiveness and understanding from his wife and girls," Turnbull said.

"He needs to make a new home for his partner and their baby that is coming in April."

Turnbull said that during Joyce's leave, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann will serve as acting prime minister when Turnbull is out of the country.

The prime minister resisted calls for him to pressure Joyce to step down from his post, but his public rebuke of the affair indicated he lost confidence in his deputy.

"Whatever may have been acceptable or to which a blind eye was turned in the past, today, in 2018, it is not acceptable," Turnbull said.

He said the scandal led him to rewrite the code of ministerial standards so that regardless of if ministers are married or single, they may not have sexual relationships with staff members.

"Today, in 2018, it is not acceptable for a minister to have a sexual relationship with somebody who works for them, it is a very bad workplace practice and everybody knows that no good comes of it," Turnbull said.

"We have to recognise that here in this place we have such important responsibilities and we don't, in practical terms, have the privacy that many others do, we have to acknowledge that we must have a higher standard."

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