Australian Prime Minister (PM) Malcolm Turnbull is changing the Ministerial Code of Conduct to ban ministers from having sexual relations with staffers amid intensifying pressure surrounding his deputy Barnaby Joyce over his affair.
Turnbull made the announcement at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra this afternoon, Feb. 15, where he reflected on Joyce’s affair with former staff member Vikki Campion, calling it “a shocking error of judgment.”
LIVE now making a statement from Parliament House https://t.co/JGgQXBtFAn
— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) February 15, 2018
He said that the Deputy PM’s conduct had “set off a world of woe” for his estranged wife, four daughters, and Campion while “appall[ing] all of us.”
“Now, Barnaby knows he made that shocking error of judgment. He knows he let down his wife and daughters. And he has apologised for that. And to them. And he is taking leave next week,” Turnbull said during the press conference, referring to his earlier announcement where he said Joyce will not be acting PM during his absence as he visits Washington next week.
Turnbull said the Ministerial Code of Conduct was in need of another amendment as it was “truly deficient” and “does not speak strongly enough to values that we all should live” — which he said were “values of respect in workplaces, the values of integrity that Australian’s expect us to have.”
The Prime Minister subsequently added the following to the code:
“This statement is not and cannot be a comprehensive statement of rules. Ministers need to exercise their judgment and their common sense in complying with both the principles and spirit of the standards and their letter.”
“Ministers must recognise that while they are entitled to privacy in personal matters, they occupy positions of great responsibility and public trust. The public has high expectations of them in terms of their personal conduct and decorum.
“Ministers should be very conscious that their spouses and children sacrifice a great deal so they can carry on their political career and their families deserve honour and respect.
“Ministers should also recognise that they must lead by example. Values should be lived.”
Turnbull said the purpose of amending the code was to make the standards “a very clear and unequivocal provision.”
“Ministers, regardless of whether they are married or single, must not engage in sexual relations with their staff. Doing so will constitute a breach of the standards,” Turnbull said.
“While this new standard is very specific, ministers should be acutely aware of the context in which I am making this change and the need for them always to behave in their personal relations with others and especially their staff, the staff of other ministers or members of the Australian public service, with integrity and respect,” he added.
Turnbull confirmed that his deputy will be taking a week off starting from next Monday.
“The Deputy Prime Minister will be taking leave from Monday February 19 to Sunday February 25 and accordingly will not be able to be acting Prime Minister while I’m overseas on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday of next week,” Turnbull said, according to 9News.