World

65% of Australian voters want deputy PM to quit over sex scandal

SYDNEY

Two-thirds of Australian voters want Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce to resign following his extramarital affair with his former press secretary, a poll showed yesterday, adding pressure on a government already fractured by the scandal.

Mr Joyce, a Catholic who campaigned on "family values" and who has been married for 24 years, refused to resign when it was made public that he was expecting a child with his former staff member.

Some 65 per cent of voters want Mr Joyce to step down as leader of the rural-based National Party, the junior partner in the government led by the Liberal Party, The Australian newspaper's poll showed.

The scandal has damaged the government's re-election chances, it indicated.

The government, which has only a one-seat majority, now trails the main opposition Labor Party by a margin of 53 per cent to 47 per cent on a two-party basis. The government must call an election by May next year.

Mr Joyce sought to turn the tide of public opinion, giving a rare interview yesterday with the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, where he blamed public life for the breakdown of his marriage.

As well as alienating voters, the scandal has fractured the ruling conservative government, with Mr Joyce last week publicly criticising Mr Turnbull for "causing further harm" through comments about his affair.

The scandal has also prompted Mr Turnbull to ban sexual relationships between ministers and their staff.- REUTERS

WORLD