Public brawl erupts between Australian prime minister and his deputy
16 February 2018
In what has rapidly become an acute political crisis, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the leader of the Liberal Party, and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, the leader of the rural-based National Party, have gone into what amounts to an all-out political war against each other.
Over the space of two weeks, a report that was first splashed in Murdoch tabloid newspapers about Joyce having an affair and expecting a baby with his former media advisor Vikki Campion has become a vehicle for seeking to oust Joyce and possibly the government itself.
While the corporate media is saturated with headlines about the “Joyce affair” and “sex bans,” the conflict clearly has deeper roots. It has brought to new intensity the underlying tensions wracking Turnbull’s fragile government and the Liberal-National Coalition itself.
Turnbull called a media conference last night to effectively make Joyce’s position untenable. He described Joyce’s conduct as “appalling” and a “shocking error of judgment.”
The prime minister sent Joyce on “personal leave” and urged him to consider resigning. Turnbull also declared an immediate ban on sexual relations between government ministers and staff members.
In parliament just 48 hours earlier, Turnbull had insisted that Joyce retained his confidence and would act as prime minister while he travelled to the US for discussions with the Trump administration. Yesterday, as his own role in shielding Joyce came under fire, he suddenly urged Joyce to take leave, allowing Senator Matthias Cormann, the Liberal Party’s Senate leader, to become acting prime minister.
National Party MPs, who had just decided to keep supporting Joyce,…