Joyce hits back at Turnbull over comments about affair

The prime minister announced a change in the country’s ministerial code of conduct banning sexual relations between government ministers and their staff

Australian Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce has sharply criticised the nation's leader, Malcolm Turnbull, in an escalation of tensions that have rocked the government. "All that is once more going to do is pull the scab off".

Turnbull said he will change the ministerial conduct rules, new standards broadly similar to a ban on relationships between lawmakers and staffers adopted last week by US Congress.

That was the lament of one Nationals MP this week after Barnaby Joyce was granted a stay of execution from his party room as pressure on the Deputy Prime Minister reached fever pitch.

However, PM Turnbull, is powerless to officially telling off or eliminate Joyce as Joyce leads a separate political party, Turnbull can't dismiss him, unless the Nationals come to a decision to do so in a party room coup.

"Barnaby Joyce has my confidence as deputy prime minister", Turnbull said.

After encouraging him to take leave next week to reflect on his position, Turnbull has made it clear that he believes Joyce must resign.

"They must not have sexual relations with their staff - that's it".

For every Starts at 60 reader who has said that Joyce's behaviour deserves thorough examination because it says so much about his personal judgment as a public representative, not to mention the allegation of misuse of public funds, there is another one who doesn't give a damn about politicians' behaviour and just wants them to get on with governing.

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Mr Joyce is living with Ms Campion and facing questions over her former political jobs, and a rent-free townhouse he was given by a friend while he sorts out his personal life.

Many members of the National Party believe the PM's comments were aimed at making Joyce resign.

It was the same when Turnbull was fighting predecessor Tony Abbott for control of the Liberal Party - Turnbull's left-leaning supporters against Abbott's harder right.

"This crisis can not be allowed to continue".

However, Mr Joyce, a married father of four who had campaigned on "family values", said today he had the support of his colleagues.

For more than a week the scandal has dogged the government, which holds a thin majority in parliament and is lagging behind the opposition in opinion polls. "The stand-off it invoked between the cabinet's two most senior figures now represents the gravest threat to the Coalition government since it was formed", the Herald editorial said.

Today he hit back at Mr Joyce's comments saying he had not tried to intervene in the Nationals Party or its deliberations "in any way at all", but refused to comment on Labor's demands.

For days on end, the headlines in the media have been dominated by the "Joyce affair", and not the threats posed by the Trump administration's preparations for wars against North Korea and China.

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