PM bans sex, slams Joyce for ‘shocking error of judgment’
PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull has banned ministers from having sex with their staff after an extraordinary week of turmoil in the wake of revelations Barnaby Joyce is fathering a love-child with his ex-media adviser.
The Deputy Prime Minister is now under pressure to resign after a clearly angry Mr Turnbull urged him to take personal leave and "consider his own position" after "a shocking error of judgment".
In a powerful press conference, Mr Turnbull unloaded on the Nationals leader, saying his affair with 32-year-old Vikki Campion had "appalled all of us" and created a "world of woe" for Mr Joyce's wife and four daughters.
After initially defending MPs' right to privacy and rejecting the need for an office sex ban, Mr Turnbull yesterday changed his tune in an attempt to end the political paralysis afflicting his Coalition government.
He said it was time to introduce a new code of conduct banning ministers from having sex with staff and implored them to uphold the highest standards. If breached, a minister will be sacked.
"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 with somebody who works for them," he said.
"It is a very bad workplace practice. Everybody knows no good comes out of it. Of course, you know what attitudes in the corporate world and elsewhere are, to this kind of thing. It is about time this change was made."
Mr Joyce, who saw off a coup by disgruntled Nationals MPs on Wednesday, will now take leave from Monday to Sunday where, at Mr Turnbull's request, he will consider his future as leader of the Nationals.
"We all know that Barnaby's error of judgment, that is the foundation of the woes that have followed, particularly for his family and indeed for his new partner," Mr Turnbull said.
"He has to consider his own position obviously. These are matters for Barnaby Joyce to reflect on."
Mr Turnbull, who will appear alongside his wife Lucy on 60 Minutes this week to talk about their enduring marriage, condemned Mr Joyce's personal behaviour.
"Barnaby made a shocking error of judgment in having an affair with a young woman working in his office," Mr Turnbull said.
"In doing so, he has set off a world of woe for those women and appalled all of us.
"This has raised this week some very serious issues about the culture of this place, of this Parliament.
"The truth is, as we know, most of the ministers, most of the bosses in this building if you like, are men and there is a gender, a real gender perspective here.
"I think many women in this building, who work in this building understand very powerfully what I am saying … this is a change I am making from today."
With Foreign Minister Julie Bishop overseas in Europe, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann will step in as acting Prime Minister next week while Mr Turnbull flies to Washington to meet US President Donald Trump.
The Daily Telegraph revealed last Wednesday that Mr Joyce was expecting a child with Ms Campion, who had subsequently moved to the office of Resources Minister Matt Canavan and later to then chief Nationals whip Damian Drum.
Yesterday he faced more pressure to resign, with new questions about his relationship with a Tamworth businessman and Nationals donor who has provided him and Ms Campion a rent-free apartment for six months.
Mr Joyce contradicted the account of the businessman, Greg Maguire, about how he came to be given the rent-free apartment, valued at about $14,000, as Labor raised concerns over the businessman's dealings with the Agriculture Department.
Mr Maguire previously told The Daily Telegraph and The Australian Mr Joyce had contacted him requesting to rent an apartment, which he then offered to provide for free.
But Mr Joyce yesterday said Mr Maguire had approached him with an offer of help after the dissolution of his marriage, and knocked back an offer for payment.
Hours later, Mr Joyce told Parliament he had not rung Mr Maguire to "ask him for a place for free". "I did not," Mr Joyce said.
Labor seized on declarations that Mr Maguire's company, the Quality Hotel Powerhouse Armidale, had hosted an event with Mr Joyce in March 2016 when he was agriculture minister, for which the Agriculture Department paid $5069 in food and drink costs.
Mr Turnbull said Mr Joyce had given him "absolutely unequivocal assurances" that he had fully complied with disclosure requirements and ministerial standards
Agriculture Department secretary Daryl Quinlivan, in a letter to Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, said the venue had been selected "in line with our procurement guidelines".