Canberra : Australia’s prime minister and his deputy have criticised each other in an open and hostile rift over politically damaging revelations that the deputy is expecting a baby with a former press secretary.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Thursday accused Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce of making a “shocking error of judgment” by having an office affair that hurt his wife, his four daughters and his new partner who is due to give birth in April. “He has set off a world of woe for those women and appalled all of us,” Turnbull said.

Joyce hit back on Friday, describing Turnbulls remarks as “inept” and “completely unnecessary.” “All thats going to do is basically pull the scab off for everybody to have a look at,” Joyce told reporters.

Since the scandal became public last week, Turnbull had avoided commenting for the sake of Joyces estranged wife and four daughters. But Turnbull responded on Thursday by banning his ministers from having sex with staff.

Turnbull last week talked down the prospect of a U.S. House of Representatives-style ban on lawmakers having sex with staff, arguing that elected officials had a right to consensual sexual relationships. Critics argue that the Australian prohibition has opened ministers private lives to media scrutiny. The Australian political press has traditionally steered clear of politicians sex lives unless there is a legitimate public interest.

Joyce said the ban “will create immense fodder for the good people in the media and it will obviously reverberate across all political parties.” But he said ministers in his Nationals party, the junior partner in the coalition government, would abide by the new rule.

Later Friday, Turnbull said he stood by his criticism and after watching a video of Joyces press conference, added: “I understand it is a very stressful time.”  In a move interpreted by some as punishing his deputy,

(To download our E-paper please click here. The publishers permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal