Australian Deputy PM resigns amid sexual harassment claim

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Canberra, Feb 23 (IANS) Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announced his resignation on Friday following an allegation of sexual harassment.

Joyce tweeted: “On Monday (February 26) morning I will step down as the Leader of @The_Nationals and Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. I would like to thank everyone for offering their support to me, especially the people of New England,” reports Efe news.

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.

Nationals federal MP Andrew Gee said on Friday that “until I have clarification regarding some of the issues about Barnaby, I won’t be able to back him”, adding that “all bets are off”.

The most recent claim of sexual harassment follows a weeks-long scandal implicating Joyce in an affair with his former media adviser Vikki Campion, with whom Joyce is expecting a baby.

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On Tuesday, Mia Davies, leader of the National Party in Western Australia, said in a statement that her wing of the party no longer supported Joyce as federal leader and urged him to “consider his position” in relation to the best interests of the party.

On February 15, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull publicly criticized Joyce’s actions and announced a ban on sexual relations between ministers and staffers.

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.

–IANS

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