Australian prime minister bans ministers from sex with staff and denounces deputy’s ‘appalling’ affair 

Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s prime minister, has banned ministers from having sex with staff and denounced the “appalling” conduct of his deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, who had an affair with an adviser, who is now pregnant.

Responding to a damaging scandal that has dominated national headlines for more than a week, Mr Turnbull said Mr Joyce, 50,  who has four daughters with his wife of 24 years, had made a “shocking error of judgment” by having an affair with a 33-year-old woman working in his office. 

“In doing so, he has set off a world of woe for those women and appalled all of us,” Mr Turnbull said.

“Our hearts go out to them. It has been a dreadful thing for them to go through in the glare of publicity. Marriage break-ups are dreadful but … to have to experience it in the full glare of the spotlight is a dreadful business.”

Mr Joyce, a social conservative who leads the rural-based National party, the junior member of the ruling Coalition, has refused to resign despite pressure from some of his party colleagues. It emerged last week that Mr Joyce’s former media adviser, Vikki Campion, is due to have their baby in April.

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Mr Joyce was due to serve as acting prime minister next week during a visit by Mr Turnbull to the United States but announced on Thursday that he will instead take leave. 

Australian Deputy Prime Minster Barnaby Joyce, right, listens to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, center, during a session in the Australian Parliament in Canberra, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 Credit:
 Rod McGuirk/AP

 Mr Joyce’s office said he requested leave because "he wanted to support his family and partner after such intense public focus on personal matters".

However, Mr Joyce has insisted he has not breached the ministerial code of conduct despite claims he misused travel expenses to spend time in Canberra with Ms Campion.

Mr Turnbull said the code of conduct needed to be updated to ban sex between ministers and staff, saying “no good comes of it”.

"In 2018, it is not acceptable for a minister to have a sexual relationship with somebody who works for them,” he said. 

“It is a very bad workplace practice and everybody knows that no good comes of it… Ministers should be very conscious that their spouses and children sacrifice a great deal so they can carry on their political career. Their families deserve honour and respect.”

Asked why he had not asked Mr Joyce to resign, the prime minister would only say: “These are matters for Barnaby Joyce to reflect on.”

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