Ministers will be banned from having sexual relationships with staffers under a rethink of the code of conduct announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The announcement comes amid intensifying pressure on Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce over an affair with his former media adviser Vikki Campion.
Mr Turnbull resisted calls for him to ask his deputy to resign, but described Mr Joyce’s behaviour as, “a shocking error of judgement” that “set off a world of woe”.
He spoke of the “terrible hurt and humiliation that Barnaby, by his conduct, has visited on his wife Natalie and their daughters — and indeed his new partner”.
“Barnaby made a shocking error of judgement in having an affair with a young woman working in his office.
“In doing so he has set off a world of woe for those women, and appalled all of us.
“Our hearts go out to them.”
Mr Joyce is taking leave next week, saying he wants to support his family and partner after such intense public focus on personal matters.
“I think he needs that time, he needs that time to reflect, he needs that time to seek forgiveness and understanding from his wife and girls,” Mr Turnbull said.
“He needs to make a new home for his partner and their baby that is coming in April.”
‘No good comes of it’ says Turnbull of sex with staff
The Prime Minister said he had rewritten the code of ministerial standards effective from today, because the current standards were “truly deficient”.
Mr Turnbull said he did not care if ministers were married or single, they must not have sexual relations with staff.
He added that he did not want to moralise but told his ministers they needed to recognise that behaviour where a blind eye would have been turned in the past would no longer be acceptable.
“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 and everybody knows that no good comes of it,” he said.
“This is the standard that I will hold — from this day forth — all my ministers to.”
He said the culture in Parliament must change and that the code needed to reflect the values of respectful workplaces.
PM distances himself from question of Joyce’s resignation
Mr Turnbull made it clear how angry he was with Mr Joyce about the affair.
When asked why he did not urge Mr Joyce to resign, the Prime Minister said it was up to the Deputy Prime Minister to consider his own position.
“These are matters for Barnaby Joyce to reflect on,” he said.
The Prime Minister said Mr Joyce had given him an unequivocal assurance he had not breached the current ministerial standards.
Mr Turnbull said it was now up to Mr Joyce’s critics to produce evidence of any such breach.