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Australian Deputy PM Resigns from Cabinet After Extramarital Affair Scandal

Barnaby Joyce, the leader of the conservative National Party, the junior partner in the ruling centre-right coalition in Australia, had earlier dismissed calls for him to quit.

Reuters

Updated:February 23, 2018, 8:58 AM IST
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Australian Deputy PM Resigns from Cabinet After Extramarital Affair Scandal
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce reacts as he sits in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia. (File photo/Reuters)
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Sydney: Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said on Friday he will resign as leader of his party and will move to the backbench after weeks of pressure over an extra-marital affair with his former media secretary.

Joyce said he will step down on Monday as leader of the National party, the junior partner in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's centre-right coalition. He will remain in parliament, safeguarding Turnbull's shaky one-seat majority.

Joyce, a practising Catholic, has been married for 24 years and has campaigned on "family values".

The renewed possibility of his resignation comes after a falling out with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is in the United States for meetings with President Donald Trump and who declined to leave him in charge while he is out of the country.

His decision to call a media conference for later on Friday, confirmed by his party, came after a new allegation of sexual harassment was made by an unidentified individual.

National Party federal director Ben Hindmarsh confirmed earlier on Friday the party had received the sexual harassment allegation but declined to give any details. A spokesman said Joyce had been made aware of the claims indirectly and believed they were "spurious and defamatory".

Two-thirds of Australian voters want Joyce to resign, The Australian newspaper's Newspoll showed earlier this week and discontent has been growing within his rural-focused party, with at least one senior member calling for his resignation.

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| Edited by: Ashish Yechury
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