Australian deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, has hit out at his boss, calling prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s criticism of Joyce’s extra-marital relationship “inept” and “unnecessary.”
On Thursday, Turnbull took the extraordinary step of banning sex between ministers and staffers, after slamming his deputy for making “a shocking error of judgement in having an affair” with his media advisor.
Turnbull’s comments have “caused further harm,” Joyce told reporters in the Australian capital Canberra on Friday.
“I believe they were in many instances inept, and most definitely in many instances unnecessary.”
The 50-year-old conservative politician said he would not resign as deputy prime minister.
He once again apologised to his family, his political party, and his new, pregnant partner, Vikki Campion, 33.
“This was a personal issue… People should not resign on personal issues,” a visibly angry Joyce said.
He also said the new ministerial code of conduct will create “immense fodder” for the media, which has launched a steady stream of reporting, analysis and debate on the issues surrounding Joyce’s affair since a tabloid newspaper revealed the relationship on Feb. 6.
“I am intending to make sure that, like all relationships, this relationship gets back onto an even keel,” Joyce said when he was asked by journalists about his relationship with the prime minister.
Joyce is the leader of Turnbull’s coalition partner, the Nationals, and so it is not possible for the prime minister to fire his deputy unless Joyce’s own party asks him to resign.
“I have not sought in any way to influence the deliberations of the National party. Neither I nor my colleagues have made any criticism of the National party,” Turnbull said after Joyce’s attack.
“I have seen Barnaby’s press conference and look I understand it’s a very stressful time.
“I thank him for his support for the very important change I’ve made to the ministerial standards,” Turnbull told reporters in Tasmania.
Earlier, he said that Joyce was considering his position and that he had not asked the deputy prime minister to resign.
Joyce has also come under fire over his acceptance of a rent-free apartment offered to him by his “mate,” millionaire Greg Maguire, who, it later turned out, benefitted from an event organised by Joyce’s department at one of his hotels at a cost of 4,000 US dollars.
Joyce has also been criticised for giving jobs to his lover Campion in another minister’s office, which some consider a breach of the ministerial code of conduct.
Meanwhile, the opposition Labor party’s leader, Bill Shorten, took the opportunity to lob an attack at the government, saying Joyce had “declared war” on Turnbull, but the prime minister was powerless to sack his deputy.
“Australians have every reason to be angry and frustrated when the two most senior Australian leaders are not focused on anything other than their own jobs,” Shorten told reporters.(dpa/NAN)