‘This has got to stop’: Australia’s deputy leader resigns amid scandals

Barnaby Joyce, Australia’s deputy prime minister, has resigned after a torrid fortnight in which he faced claims of sexual harassment and was forced to admit that he had an affair with a staffer, who is pregnant. 

Blaming his demise on “leaking” by his political foes, Mr Joyce said the harassment allegations were untrue and he was resigning because his wife Natalie, his four daughters and his new partner, Vikki Campion – and the government – all needed a “circuit-breaker”. 

“It’s incredibly important that there be a circuit-breaker, not just for the parliament, but more importantly, a circuit-breaker for Vikki, for my unborn child, my daughters and for [wife] Nat,” he told reporters. 

“This has got to stop. It’s not fair on them."

Thanking his local supporters, he said: “I don’t deserve the support that you’ve given me.”

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Barnaby Joyce, Australia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, speaks during a media conference in the town of ArmidaleCredit:

Mr Joyce, 50, is the leader of the National party, the rural-based member of the ruling Coalition, and has been a popular and outspoken champion of rural causes.

But his career began to unravel earlier this month when  a Sydney tabloid revealed that his former media adviser, Ms Campion, 33, was pregnant and due to have a baby in April.

Mr Joyce, a devout Catholic who opposed legalising same-sex marriage,  has since faced a daily barrage of front-page stories about his personal affairs, including allegations he misused travel expenses to spend time with Ms Campion.

He received little support from Malcolm Turnbull, the prime minister, who described his conduct as “appalling” and announced a new ban on ministers having sex with staff. Mr Joyce responded by describing the prime minister as “inept”.

Australian Prime Minister Turnbull is currently in the USCredit:

However, Mr Turnbull, who leads the Liberal party, was powerless to remove Mr Joyce as leader of the Nationals. 

In recent days, Mr Joyce’s party colleagues began to publicly withdraw support, culminating in the party’s president admitting that a woman had made a sexual harassment complaint against Mr Joyce.

Insisting any such complaint should be referred to police, Mr Joyce said: “The leaking, the backgrounding, all that, it will destroy not only our government, it will destroy any government.”

Mr Joyce, who wears a cowboy hat, is best-known internationally for his threat in 2015 to kill Pistol and Boo, the pet dogs of actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, after they were smuggled into Australia. The pair took the dogs back to the United States and later publicly apologised. 

Mr Joyce will remain in parliament and has signalled that he still harbours political aspirations. 

“I want to assist my colleagues, where I can, to keep their seats and also, quite naturally, in April, a baby will be born. I’ll have other things on my mind,” he said.

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