After eight days of dissection in the press and debate on the floor of Parliament, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has finally issued his response to revelations about Barnaby Joyce’s workplace affair.
In an extraordinary press conference from Canberra this afternoon, Turnbull condemned his deputy’s “shocking error of judgement” in entering a relationship with 33-year-old former media adviser Vikki Campion, but stopped short of supporting calls for the National Party leader to step aside.
“Barnaby has given me, as I said in the House, an unequivocal assurance that he has complied with the ministerial standards… But I think we know that the real issue is the terrible hurt and humiliation that Barnaby, by his conduct, has visited on his wife, Natalie, and their daughters and, indeed, his new partner,” the Prime Minister said.
“Barnaby made a shocking error of judgment in having an affair with a young woman working in his office. In doing so, he has set off a world of woe for those women and appalled all of us. Our hearts go out to them.”
Though rumoured to be a long-held secret in Canberra, the father of affair finally landed in the news last week courtesy of a report by The Daily Telegraph. The story was accompanied by photographs of a heavily pregnant Campion, who is due to give birth to the 50-year-old’s child in April.
In Thursday's press conference, the Prime Minister added that Joyce will take leave next week, at his encouragement.
"I think that he needs that leave," Turnbull said. "He needs that time to reflect. He needs that time to seek forgiveness and understanding from his wife and girls. He needs to make a new home for his partner and their baby."
Yet while Barnaby Joyce may have so far escaped the scandal with his job, the rules are about to change.
"This has raised some very serious issues about the culture of this place."
Turnbull today noted that the Joyce affair has "raised some very serious issues about the culture" of Parliament.
His solution? A change to the ministerial standards to ban MPs - married or single - from entering sexual relationships with their staff.
"Ministers should be very conscious that their spouses and children sacrifice a great deal so they can carry on their political career and their families deserve honour and respect. Ministers should also recognise they must lead by example. Values should be lived," he said.
The Prime Minister said the change won't be the last he'll make to the code of conduct, which he described as a "truly deficient" "old document".
"It does not speak strongly enough for the values that we all should live," he said. "Values of respect, of respectful workplaces, of workplaces where women are respected."
Joyce announced his separation from his wife of 24 years in December, though did not reveal a reason for the split. The pair have have four daughters, aged 20, 19, 17 and 15.
Jessie and Mia discuss all things Barnaby Joyce - including his new partner, his wife's comments and the hypocrisy of it all....