Australian PM bans sex between ministers and staff after deputy's 'shocking' affair

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Malcolm Turnbull has taken the extraordinary step of elevating Mathias Cormann to acting Prime Minister of Australia, while Barnaby Joyce will take personal leave after his affair with former staffer Vikki Campion was publicly revealed.

"But I think we know that the real issue is the bad hurt and humiliation that Barnaby, by his conduct, has visited upon his wife, Natalie, and their daughters and, indeed, his new partner", the Prime Minister said.

"Barnaby made a shocking error of judgement, having an affair with a young woman working in his office".

Mr Turnbull said he did not care if ministers were married or single, they must not have sexual relations with staff.

Mr Joyce has denied breaching the ministerial code of conduct, which says frontbenchers can not employ "close" relatives or partners or get them work in other ministerial offices "without the prime minister's express approval".

Ms Campion is due to give birth in mid-April.
Mr Joyce late last year separated from his wife Natalie after 24 years of marriage.

Joyce's appointment as acting PM has been a subject of concern in Parliament after questions surrounding whether Joyce had followed the code of ministerial conduct were raised in regards to Campion's employment.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told parliament that Mr Joyce would not fill his post as acting leader next week.

Mathias Cormann will be acting PM
GETTY IMAGES Mathias Cormann will be acting PM

The position was to go to the Nationals Leader amid uproar over his marriage breakup and relationship with a pregnant former staff member, but instead he will now take a break.

"I am very aware of the ministerial code of conduct".

Mr Joyce will take a leave of absence from Monday amid scrutiny over whether he breached ministerial standards.

Mr Joyce was due to step in as acting prime minister while Mr Turnbull is on his trip to the U.S., in line with usual convention.

Joyce said he did not know about the payment. First she was moved into the office of another Nationals cabinet minister, Matt Canavan, who was himself caught up in the citizenship saga, before being shifted into the office of the Nationals chief whip, Damien Drum. And while many voters have defended the Nationals leader, saying that his private life has no bearing on his fitness for public office, others have said that his judgment and values are pertinent to his representation of voters, particularly given that he appeared to have used his family's wholesome image for political gain.

"If the members opposite wish to assert that he has breached a clause in the ministerial standards, then they should say so and identify the clause", he said.

"It was at that time that Mr Maguire approached me, as did many other friends to offer support", Mr Joyce told parliament today.

- Joyce's department spent $5000 on meals and drinks for a March 2016 function he attended at Maguire's Quality Hotel Powerhouse in Armidale.

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It also seeks to cut $470 million from employee healthcare costs by removing that benefit from collective bargaining with unions. The governor says one of the biggest financial burdens on the state and on taxpayers is the pension problem.

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