Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announced his resignation on Friday following a scandal that led to a ban on sexual relations between government ministers and their personal staff. The scandal has dominated the national conversation in Australia for the past two weeks.
Joyce, who has four daughters with his wife of 24 years, is expecting a child with his former staffer in April, The Washington Post reported.
“On Monday morning, I will step down as the leader of the Nationals and Deputy Prime Minister of Australia,” Joyce said in a tweet. “I would like to thank everyone for offering their support to me, especially the people of New England.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull issued a statement shortly after Joyce announced his decision, thanking him for being a “a fierce advocate for rural and regional Australia”, BBC reported.
The Nationals President Larry Anthony said the party had greeted the news of Joyce’s resignation with “a heavy heart”, The Guardian reported. “Barnaby will continue to be a huge asset for the party as the Member for New England,” Anthony said. “The Nationals have a strong history of almost 100 years of delivering for regional communities and standing up for local issues.”
The new leader of the Nationals will be chosen on Monday at a meeting of 21 privileged MPs, who will either become the new deputy prime minister or choose who Turnbull’s new deputy will be, News.com reported.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten criticised the secret coalition agreement between the Liberals and the Nationals. “The National Party cannot be allowed by virtue of a secret Coalition agreement to 100% decide who the deputy prime minister is,” Shorten said. “Australians deserve better. The secret Coalition agreement, dealing out positions in the Turnbull government, must be made public.”