Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has resigned as leader of the Nationals.
In a press conference on Friday, Joyce said he will step down as Deputy Prime Minister.
“On Monday morning in the party room, I will step down as the leader of the National Party and deputy leader of Australia. I have informed the acting Prime Minister, Mathias Cormann, of this.”
Mr Joyce thanked his supporters, but implored the media to give his family some privacy.
“I’d like to say that it’s absolutely important that there be a circuit-breaker, not just for the parliament, but more importantly, a circuit-breaker for Vikki, for my unborn child, my daughters and for Nat. This has got to stop. It’s not fair on them. It’s just completely and utterly unwarranted, the sort of observation that’s happened.”
Mr Joyce’s decision to resign came from mounting internal pressure, after a string of stories broke centring on his affair with his staffer, his conduct at a 2011 awards ceremony and a separate allegation of sexual harassment.
According to the ABC, a sexual harassment complaint about Joyce was raised in a WA Nationals MPs meeting on Tuesday. In his press conference, Joyce said this was the “straw the broke the camel’s back”, but denied the allegation and said he had asked it be referred to WA police.
He has confirmed he will go the backbench.
Earlier this month, the Deputy PM was forced to issue a statement denying a report in the Daily Telegraph alleging in 2011 the then-Queensland Senator pinched a woman’s bottom after the Rural Women’s Agricultural Awards in Canberra.
The unidentified woman told the Daily Telegraph: “I went over to the bar and he was very, very drunk and nearly falling over.
Listen: Kate Langbroek feels sleeping with a married man is a shitty thing to do. But should our judgement really be falling on the woman in this scenario? Post continues after audio.
“I said, ‘Barnaby, I think you should go home. You’re very drunk.’ He leant over and he pinched my bottom.”
Mr Joyce denied the woman’s account.
“The story… it did not happen. This story has been brought about by a person unnamed at a venue unnamed at a time unnamed seven years ago and has been peddled by the bitterest of political enemies to me.”
The allegations come after The Daily Telegraph revealed Joyce had been having an affair with his former staffer, 33-year-old Vikki Campion. She is expecting his baby and is due in April.
After the story broke, Mr Joyce’s estranged wife Natalie – with whom he has daughters Bridgette, 20, Julia, 19, Caroline, 17, and Odette, 15 – issued a statement published in The Australian.
“This situation is devastating on many fronts,” she said. “For my girls who are affected by the family breakdown and for me as a wife of 24 years, who placed my own career on hold to support Barnaby through his political life.”
Natalie remarked that their family life had very much been shared during her husband’s career in politics and throughout their marriage, campaign and office staff were often invited into their home.
“We also feel deceived and hurt by the actions of Barnaby and the staff member involved,” she told The Australian.