Australia's deputy PM resigns over sexual harassment claims


THE region's Federal members have weighed in on the impending resignation of Barnaby Joyce, who will step down as leader of the Nationals on Monday, ending his time as Australia's Deputy Prime Minister.

Joyce's move follows a complaint against him of sexual harassment by an unnamed woman, leading some MPs of his National Party to withdraw their support.

A ruddy-faced political maverick who once threatened to euthanize actor Johnny Depp's pet dogs for arriving in Australia without permission, Joyce had presented himself as a family man devoted to his wife of 24 years and their four daughters.

Mr Joyce held a press conference today in his rural New South Wales seat of Armidale.

"[It has been an] incredible privilege, that I'm so humbled by, to have been the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia", he said.

Turnbull called Joyce's affair a "shocking error of judgment" last week, to which Joyce responded by calling Turnbull "inept".

The scandal has dominated Australian headlines for over two weeks.

Mr Joyce had only been back in parliament less than a month after falling victim to a citizenship crisis that has dogged Mr Turnbull's government. He denied the allegations, and said he requested they be referred to police for investigation.

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Joyce began his political career when he was elected as a senator for Queensland in 2004, and went to become a minister of several portfolios before becoming leader of the conservative National Party in 2016 and Deputy Prime Minister in 2017. Australia's High Court deemed Joyce was a New Zealand citizen in October, forcing Mr Turnbull to rule in minority until Mr Joyce re-contested and won his seat again.

With Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also out of the country, the role has been assumed by Senate leader Mathias Cormann, who said ahead of Joyce's decision that any harassment claim must be taken seriously.

Junior Nationals minister David Gillespie has indicated he would be a candidate for the vacancy, while reports said Veterans Affairs Minister Michael McCormack had significant backing.

Joyce said it has been an incredible privilege to serve as Deputy Prime Minister of Australia.

Mr Joyce's resignation will potentially heal the rift between the Liberal and National parties, a political alliance that has existed for almost 100 years.

"He has personal issues that he has to address, as he said", Mr Turnbull said outside Blair House in Washington DC.

"In Australian politics, disunity is death", Economou said.

Two-thirds of Australian voters wanted Mr Joyce to resign, The Australian newspaper's Newspoll showed earlier this week.