Australian government ministers can no longer have sexual relationships with staffers
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has ordered a ban on sexual relationships between government ministers and their staffers amid a scandal surrounding his deputy.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce made headlines in Australia last week when it became known that he had an extramarital affair with a press secretary, who is now his partner and pregnant with their child.
Turnbull said Thursday that Joyce had showed a “shocking error of judgment” and, in the process, caused “terrible hurt and humiliation” to his family, including his wife of 24 years, and his former media adviser, Vikki Campion, according to Bloomberg Politics.
Turnbull told reporters that “serious issues” about the culture in Parliament have come to light, and he emphasized the need to amend the ministerial code of conduct.
“The truth is that it is deficient — it is truly deficient. It does not speak strongly enough for the values that we all should live — values of respect, of respectful workplaces, of workplaces where women are respected,” the prime minister said during a news conference Thursday, announcing a key revision to the long-standing document, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Turnbull said that although ministers are entitled to privacy in their personal lives, “the public has high expectations of them in terms of their personal conduct and decorum.”
“I’ve today added to these standards a very clear and unequivocal provision: Ministers, regardless of whether they are married or single, must not engage in sexual relations with their staff,” he said.
One issue, according to CNN, is not only Joyce’s extramarital affair but also the problems that seemingly went with it — including prime jobs for his secret mistress.
The 50-year-old leader of the National Party issued a public apology earlier this week, calling the situation a “searing personal experience,” according to BBC News. He will take a week-long leave of absence — however, Turnbull said Joyce has a decision to make.
“Barnaby has acknowledged his fault, his error, his grief about his conduct. He has to consider his own position obviously. These are matters for Barnaby Joyce to reflect on,” the prime minister said, according to CNN.
The news out of Australia comes about a week after the U.S. House similarly voted to bar sexual relationships between U.S. lawmakers and their staffers amid mounting allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct from Hollywood to Capitol Hill. It also follows a heated debate about how Congress should handle such allegations involving lawmakers.
Bloomberg reported that the Australian prime minister is scheduled to visit the United States next week to meet with President Trump and, that, in an unusual move, Joyce will not fill in for him at home.
“I am not here to moralize,” Turnbull told reporters Thursday, according to CNN. “But we must recognize that whatever may have been acceptable or to which a blind eye was turned in the past, today, in 2018, it is not acceptable for a minister to have a sexual relationship with somebody who works for them.”
“It is a very bad workplace practice,” the prime minister added. “And everybody knows that no good comes of it.”