Australian Prime Minister (PM) Malcolm Turnbull announced in Parliament today that Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce will be taking leave and will not fill his post as acting PM next week.
Instead, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann will take on the role when Turnbull travels to the United States to meet with President Donald Trump in Washington D.C, reported ABC News.
Deputy Liberal leader and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who would have been next in line to be acting PM, will also be overseas next week.
The Deputy PM was set to stand as acting PM during Turnbull’s absence next week — as per the usual convention. But he is now facing immense pressure in relation to news of his affair with former staff member Vikki Campion, who is currently pregnant with their baby.
Joyce’s appointment as acting PM has been a subject of concern in Parliament after questions surrounding whether Joyce had followed the code of ministerial conduct were raised in regards to Campion’s employment.
Australia’s opposition Labor Party questioned the PM on whether the decision for Joyce to “take a break” meant that Joyce was unable to do his job, reported ABC.
“Are we simply meant to believe it is all a big coincidence?” Labor leader Bill Shorten asked.
Joyce found himself in hot water after news of his affair with Campion came to light earlier this month.
Joyce broke his silence on the affair on Feb. 12, apologising to his estranged wife Natalie and four daughters, while confirming his relationship with his pregnant partner.
The deputy prime minister also apologised to his electorate following negative publicity over his actions.
Joyce has vehemently denied that he breached any ministerial code of conduct regarding Campion’s employment.
“I am very aware of the ministerial code of conduct. It is without a shadow of a doubt that Vikki Campion is my partner now. But when she worked in my office, she was not my partner. When she worked in Matt Canavan’s office, she was not my partner. And Damian Drum was not a minister,” he said during his statement.
The ministerial code of conduct states that “close relatives and partners are not to be appointed to positions in their ministerial or electorate offices, and must not be employed in the offices of other members of the Executive Government without the Prime Minister’s express approval.”