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.
In a long-scheduled appearance on Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes, Mr and Mrs Turnbull opened up about their marriage, with the Prime Minister saying he could not do the job without his wife of 38 years.
Awkwardly, it came only two days after the government’s two most senior figures had a spectacular public falling-out over Mr Joyce’s affair with his now-pregnant former staffer Vikki Campion.
The story also aired only minutes before the latest Newspoll showed the government has dropped one point to trail Labor 53-47 on two-party terms, while Mr Turnbull’s personal approval has also fallen five points. It is the 27th consecutive Newspoll lost by the Coalition.
The poll, conducted for The Australian, saw voters punish the government for the Joyce scandal, with 65 per cent of respondents saying he should resign as Deputy PM. A third said he should quit Parliament altogether.
While most of the 60 Minutes story was filmed well before the Joyce scandal broke, Mr Turnbull submitted to a further interview on Friday, one day after he publicly shamed the Nationals leader and announced a ban on sex between government ministers and their staff.
Asked if Mr Joyce could be “rehabilitated”, Mr Turnbull told journalist Liz Hayes: “H
Mr Turnbull and Lucy spoke candidly about their happy marriage as the Prime Minister invited Ms Hayes inside his government jet and into the Lodge.
At one point during the program, Ms Hayes told the couple she felt like she had entered a
It was like looking at two people with an “
Asked for her opinion on Tony Abbott, meanwhile, a deadpan Mrs Turnbull said: “
On Thursday evening, Mr Turnbull used a press conference to pass moral judgment on Mr Joyce over his affair with Ms Campion, saying he had “appalled all of us”.
Explaining the decision, which set in train a disastrous 24 hours for the government, Mr Turnbull said he believed “Australians wanted to hear their prime minister’s heartfelt views about these events, they wanted to know what I felt about them”.
“They wanted to hear it from my lips but also from my heart,” he said.
“Saying you’re speaking for 25 million people is a bit presumptuous, but I certainly felt that the values I expressed and the action I took, would have the overwhelming endorsement of Australians.
“I felt it was absolutely the right thing to do.”
Mr Turnbull also revealed he had consulted with his wife before announcing the sex ban, which has made headlines around the world.
“She, Lucy, absolutely agrees, and I mean, who would disagree?” Mr Turnbull said.
“Do we think it’s a good idea for ministers to have sexual relations with their staff? No? Well, why don’t we just say so?”
Nationals MP George Christensen slammed the interview, questioning why the Deputy PM wasn’t invited on the show.
“Funny that 60 Minutes didn’t bother to ask Barnaby Joyce whatever they wanted for tonight’s story when he was on the same floor as their film crew in Sydney’s Commonwealths (sic) Parliamentary Offices on Friday,” George Christensen tweeted.
Mr Joyce retweeted the statement shortly after.
Funny that @60Mins didn't bother to ask @Barnaby_Joyce whatever they wanted for tonight's story when he was on the same floor as their film crew in Sydney's Commonwealths Parliamentary Offices on Friday. #fakenews
— George Christensen (@GChristensenMP) February 18, 2018
Speaking in Melbourne earlier on Sunday afternoon, Mr Turnbull described a conversation he had Mr Joyce the day before as “frank”.
The pair met for an hour after Mr Joyce publicly slammed the Prime Minister as “inept” in an extraordinary press conference on Friday.
Mr Turnbull will head to the United States for a landmark trip later in the week.