With new allegations of sexual harassment being levelled against him, the deputy PM said enough is enough.
Barnaby Joyce has resigned as leader of the Nationals and deputy prime minister of Australia amidst ongoing pressure from within the coalition and the opposition.
At a press conference in Armidale this afternoon, the member for New England said the formal sexual harassment complaint made against him and widely reported in the last couple of days was “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.
Even though he strongly denies the allegations as “spurious and defamatory”, the intrusion into his private life and that of his loved ones proved too much.
Until then, Joyce was determined to dig in. He even went toe-to-toe with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and then tried to get ahead of the story with a series of media interviews, but the saga that began with the revelation of his affair with former staffer Vikki Campion didn’t blow over.
On Monday morning in the Party Room, he will officially step down as leader of the Nationals and become a backbencher.
“It’s incredibly important that there be a circuit-breaker… a circuit-breaker for Vikki, for my unborn child, my daughters and for Nat,” he said.
“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.”
"I'm the public figure, go after me! But don't go after private individuals," @Barnaby_Joyce asked whether the Australian media should expose personal relationships for public scrutiny. #auspol pic.twitter.com/84JlmlxPaQ
— ABC News (@abcnews) February 23, 2018
He would not be drawn on who should replace him, but John McVeigh will take over the infrastructure and transport portfolio in the interim.
Turnbull, who is currently in the US, said the partnership between the Liberal and Nationals parties remained “undiminished”.
“I thank Barnaby for his service as Deputy Prime Minister and in his various Ministerial roles in which he has been a fierce advocate for rural and regional Australia,” he said in a statement.
The Nationals also released a statement commending Joyce on his representation of regional Australians.
— NSW Nationals (@NSWNationals) February 23, 2018
Of course, a great deal of the pressure on Joyce came from within the Nationals party. First Andrew Broad announced he would move a resolution ousting his leader, and then his colleagues in Western Australia told him to fall on his sword.
While a resignation seemed the most logical reason for his impromptu presser, it still took many by surprise.
Liberal MP Tony Pasin was caught off guard.
“It’s obviously a shock,” he told Sky News. “Watching that press conference, make no mistake, that was a difficult exercise for Barnaby.”