PM consulted wife on sex ban

Joyce and Turnbull: Coalition is under threat

Joyce and Turnbull: Coalition is under threat

Barnaby Joyce, Australia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, speaks during a media conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia February 16, 2018.

The nation's two most senior lawmakers talked for more than an hour in Sydney yesterday and agreed they need to work better together in the future. "I know there was great excitement in the media that there was some Coalition clash, there are no issues between the Liberal and National parties, at all".

"That provoked an angry response from Mr Joyce, who said the remarks were "inept" and unnecessary". "At the moment, Barnaby Joyce has the support of the National Party", he said.

The ban attracted worldwide headlines but more damaging for the Australian government is the war of words between the coalition partners.

The Liberal-National coalition has existed since 1923, with the National leader usually taking on the deputy prime ministership.

The saga has played out on the front pages of Australia's newspapers for nearly two weeks, with Joyce, 50, confirming that his now partner Vikki Campion is pregnant with his child.

Malcolm Turnbull has attempted to soften his image with a Sunday night television interview alongside his wife Lucy, as polls show the Barnaby Joyce saga has further crippled the government's standing among voters.

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Ministers must not have sexual relations with staff regardless of whether they were married or single, he said.

The latest Newspoll finds 65% of a sample of 1,632 voters thinks Joyce should resign the leadership of the Nationals, while a third of the sample thinks he should quit parliament. It was up to Mr Joyce's Nationals to decide whether he should continue as party leader, he said.

"He is having a week off and then we'll have our party room meeting Monday after next and we will see", she said.

On Friday, Nationals MP Andrew Broad said that while Barnaby Joyce had made an error of judgment, his leadership of the Nationals remained safe for now. "We are an independent unit and make our own decisions".

The Australian government's poll ratings have fallen in the wake of the deputy prime minister's extramarital affair with a former aide, which has threatened to fracture the ruling coalition.

Australia's prime minister and his deputy 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.

"This is an absolutely full-blown political crisis", Shorten said. But questions have been raised about her employment in two government jobs after working in Joyce's office and the rent-free apartment owned by a wealthy political donor where Joyce and Campion now live.

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