Barnaby Joyce succumbs to pressure and will go to backbench

Barnaby's problems deepen with new harassment complaint

Barnaby's problems deepen with new harassment complaint

Pressure has been mounting on Mr Joyce ever since it was revealed that he had an affair with his staffer Vikki Campion, who is now his partner.

The 50-year-old had insisted he would ride out the storm but his position became untenable on Friday when a sexual harassment complaint against him, which he denies, was lodged with the party by an unnamed woman.

"This has got to stop".

Australia's scandal-hit Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announced Friday he was quitting and moving to the backbench amid claims of sexual harassment, which come on top of controversy over an affair with a now-pregnant former aide.

"It is quite evident that you can't go to the dispatch box while issues like that are surrounding you", he said.

Mr Joyce also said he was concerned and "deeply annoyed" at the thought that their child might be perceived as "somehow less worthy than other children".

THE odds on who will take over for Barnaby Joyce as Deputy Prime Minister are up, with Page MP Kevin Hogan sitting in the middle at $22.

The son of sheep and dairy farmers, Joyce has led the rural-based Nationals for two years.

Reacting to the development, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a ban on government ministers having sex with their employees and later called Joyce's actions a "shocking error of judgement".

Turnbull, who is in the USA for talks with President Donald Trump, issued a statement thanking Joyce for his service and for being a "fierce advocate for rural and regional Australia".

"The National Party can not be allowed by virtue of a secret Coalition agreement to 100% decide who the deputy prime minister is", Shorten said.

Despite three weeks of negative publicity and open tension with Turnbull, Joyce seemed determined to keep his position.

"I think it's my responsibility to do my bit to make sure that happens", Joyce said.

Mr Joyce still enjoys strong support among some of his colleagues who believe he is their best electoral asset.

But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is in Washington for talks with President Donald Trump, was aghast at Joyce's behavior, according to people who know him, and introduced a rule prohibiting sexual relations between ministers and their personal staff, a decision that tapped into the global #MeToo movement inspired by the allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

"Obviously it has been touted that Michael McCormack will put his hand up", Mr Hogan said.

The resignation may relieve some pressure on Turnbull, whose ruling Liberal-National coalition has slumped further behind in opinion polls amid the scandal. "The stand-off it invoked between the cabinet's two most senior figures now represents the gravest threat to the Coalition government since it was formed", the Herald editorial said.

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