Australia's deputy prime minister to quit on Monday

Hannah Rogers
February 23, 2018

The Nationals leader's chances of clinging to the leadership were dealt another blow late on Thursday when The Daily Telegraph reported a sexual harassment complaint had been lodged against Joyce by a West Australian woman.

However, the Party's federal director Ben Hindmarsh reportedly said in a statement that "all complaints are taken seriously and treated with the strict confidentiality and given due process".

Nationals MP Andrew Gee suggested his support would depend on the results of an investigation into a recent sexual harassment allegation against Joyce, which acting prime minister Mathias Cormann described as "very serious".

But it has also highlighted the perilous state of the coalition government, which just a few months ago survived a crisis over lawmakers' dual citizenship that threatened its wafer-thin parliamentary majority.

Mr. Joyce, a populist from rural Australia and a crucial member of Parliament's governing coalition, had previously admitted to an affair with a former staffer, who is now pregnant.

"It's important that we. establish the facts", Senator Cormann said.

A spokesman said Joyce had been made aware of the claim indirectly and believed it was "spurious and defamatory".

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Joyce said he would step down as leader of the National Party on Monday, forcing a vote to select a new deputy prime minister.

It was Joyce's affair which led Turnbull to announce in February all relationships between ministers and their staff would be banned in the future.

"I will say on Monday morning at the party room (meeting), I will step down as the leader of the National Party and deputy leader of Australia", Joyce said at a press conference in Armidale, his country New South Wales electorate.

"I understand that a formal complaint has been made, and that that complaint is being investigated".

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese again called for Mr Joyce to resign, criticising his decision to do media interviews during a week of leave.

"(It has been an) incredible privilege, that I'm so humbled by, to have been the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia", he told reporters.

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