Barnaby Joyce slams PM's "inept" comments

Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce at a press conference in 2016

Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce at a press conference in 2016

Malcolm Turnbull says he has not asked Barnaby Joyce to resign and still has confidence in his deputy prime minister. "Barnaby made a shocking error of judgement in having an affair with a young woman working in his office", he said. It has led to allegations that he breached ministerial rules, with the crisis dominating the front pages and parliament question time, with calls mounting for him to resign.

Mr Joyce said he would try to fix his relationship with Mr Turnbull.

Mr Turnbull said the code of conduct needed to be updated to ban sex between ministers and staff, saying "no good comes of it".

A motion to have Joyce fired was earlier defeated in the House of Representatives, a chamber that could nearly certainly have forced him from office.

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When some Australian members of Parliament floated such a plan after the initial Joyce revelations, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop commented, "the Government has no business interfering into people's personal lives and we wouldn't want to cross the line" ― but by Thursday, Turnbull had seemingly come around to the concept when he said he would add new lines to the ministerial standards.

The comments were seen as a thinly veiled call for the National Party leader to resign from cabinet, but Joyce said on Friday he had the support of his colleagues to continue.

When asked how he could possibly work with the prime minister again, Joyce said, "I am intending to make sure that, like all relationships, this relationship gets back onto an even keel".

Senator Matthias Cormann, who will become acting Prime Minister while Mr Turnbull travels to the US next week to meet US President Donald Trump, denied the relationship between the Prime Minister and his Deputy had been irrevocably damaged by the affair. But he announced yesterday that he will instead take leave.

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Mr Turnbull's chiding of Mr Joyce is in stark contrast to what had been an unlikely romance between the city slicker and boy from the bush.

"There is nothing that we dislike more than implied intervention into the party processes of the National Party", Joyce said.

But he praised Mr Turnbull for showing leadership on ministerial conduct in the wake of the Joyce affair.

"I am not here to moralise". It is a very bad workplace practice. "It has been a awful thing for them to go through in the glare of publicity", he said.

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In a fiery press conference on Friday - held without the PM's knowledge - Joyce lashed Turnbull.

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