Australian PM bans ministers from sex with staffers

Ministers banned from sex with staffers as deputy PM gets adviser pregnant

Parliament rejects call for firing of Australia's deputy PM

A major rift opened up in Australia's coalition government on Friday as Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce refused to resign over an affair with a staff member, and blasted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's condemnation of his behaviour as "inept".

Joyce has been under pressure to resign, and Turnbull under pressure to force him to leave, for the last two weeks.

"Comments by the Prime Minister yesterday at his press conference ..."

'The reason I say that, it was public knowledge what was being repeated.

"I listened to it and I thought that was completely unnecessary, and all that is going to do is basically pull the scab off to everybody to have a look at".

It now states: "Ministers, regardless of whether they are married or single, must not engage in sexual relations with their staff". Joyce has so far resisted calls to quit either his seat or his cabinet spot, including a motion that passed the Senate calling for his resignation, since leaving parliament would put the government's narrow one-seat majority at risk. The leader of the Liberal Party is the prime minister, and the leader of the Nationals is the deputy.

Despite the conflict, the Deputy PM has denied the pair could no longer work together, saying he wants to make sure the relationship with Mr Turnbull gets "back on even keel".

Mr Turnbull reiterated today he had not asked for Mr Joyce's resignation.

"It goes without saying this will create enormous fodder for the good people in the media and it will obviously reverberate across all political parties". In a hastily convened doorstop on Friday morning, he called Mr Turnbull "inept".

"There is various codes of conduct (in WA)".

"Most people would realise that at the time of a marriage break-up, it is not unusual for those who you are close to, to offer support", he told parliament.

"I think they'll have a strong and productive and positive relationship in the future", Senator Cormann told Sky News on Friday. But no doubt, many of them are.

"Quite simply because that is not a decision of my colleagues and the right of the leader of the National Party is to reflect on where my colleagues are and my colleagues support me", he said. He spoke a day after his leader accused him of making a "shocking error of judgment" and causing "terrible hurt and humiliation" to his family and new partner after media reports of his affair with a former staffer emerged this month.

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