Australian Deputy PM resigns amid sexual harassment claim

Gladys Abbott
February 24, 2018

"Joyce, who has also been criticised for living in an apartment rent-free with now partner Vikki Campion after splitting with his wife, was due to be the acting prime minister this week with Turnbull meeting US President Donald Trump in Washington".

He said media reports that an unidentified woman had made a sexual harassment complaint against him were "the straw the breaks the camel's back", after two weeks of withering scrutiny about the affair with his former press secretary, Vikki Campion.

Her lawyer, Emma Salerno, told the paper Ms Marriott wanted Mr Joyce to be held to account, and hoped her complaint would see the party develop clear processes for handling such complaints. Although Joyce denied any wrongdoing, he acknowledged the allegation had hastened his decision.

"Any allegation of sexual harassment is a very serious allegation", he told reporters.

The Nationals, the traditional party of farmers and rural voters, will select a new leader on Monday. Australia's High Court deemed Joyce was a New Zealand citizen in October, forcing Turnbull to rule in minority until Joyce re-contested and won his seat again. He has denied the allegation and asked that it be referred to police for investigation.

With Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also out of the country, the role has been assumed by Senate leader Mathias Cormann, who said ahead of Joyce's decision that any harassment claim must be taken seriously.

Whoever Nationals politicians choose as their new leader on Monday will become deputy prime minister.

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Veterans Affairs Minister Michael McCormack and David Gillespie, the assistant minister for children and families, both said they would contest the leadership ballot on Monday.

Mr Joyce and Mr Turnbull have openly attacked each other since news of the deputy prime minister's office affair broke.

Joyce's announcement of his resignation is the latest blow to Turnbull's government and comes after a year of political instability brought about by a constitutional crisis surrounding legislators with dual nationality.

"He has personal issues that he has to address snd he feels that he can not do that from the dispatch box", Mr Turnbull said outside Blair House in Washington DC.

Freed from Cabinet restraints, Mr Abbott has criticised Mr Turnbull's policies from the backbench, although Mr Joyce said he would not destabilise the government.

"Might I say right here, any person in any political party always says, the leaking, the backgrounding, all that, it will destroy not only our government, it will destroy any government", he said at the press conference today.

Mr Turnbull must head back to the polls by May 2019.

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