SYDNEY (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said on Friday (Feb 23) that he will resign as leader of his party and will move to the backbench after weeks of pressure over an extra-marital affair with his former media secretary.
Mr Joyce said he will step down on Monday as leader of the National party, the junior partner in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's centre-right coalition. He will remain in parliament, safeguarding Mr Turnbull's shaky one-seat majority.
Mr Joyce, a practising Catholic, has been married for 24 years and has campaigned on "family values".
The resignation may relieve some pressure on Mr Turnbull, whose ruling Liberal-National coalition trails in opinion polls.
The prime minister last week accused his deputy of making a “shocking error of judgment” after the story broke earlier this month that Mr Joyce was expecting a baby with his new partner amid the end of his 24-year marriage.
The issue has dominated headlines in Australian media this month (February), taking the spotlight away from the prime minister’s policy agenda, including his bid to legislate corporate and personal tax cuts.
The affair has also spurred a debate about what parts of a parliamentarian’s life are private and should be off-limits to media reporting.