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Barnaby Joyce to quit as National Party leader

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UPDATED | Barnaby Joyce will step down as National Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister.

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Joyce told reporters in Armidale on Friday that he will throw open the leadership at a meeting in Canberra at 8am on Monday.

“To give these people in the weatherboard and iron, in those regional and small towns the best opportunity, this current cacophony of issues has to be put aside,” Joyce said.

The deputy prime minister has spent 16 days fighting off accusations of improper conduct over his affair with his now-pregnant former staffer Vikki Campion, and she was moved to two other political offices.

“Over the last half a month, there has been a litany of allegations. I don’t believe any of them have been sustained,” Joyce said.

But he believes the government and his family needs a “circuit breaker” to stop the flood of stories.

“This has got to stop. It’s not fair on them,” he said.

He said the final straw was a sexual harassment allegation revealed on Thursday, which he has asked to be referred to the police.

Joyce has not directly told Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull he is resigning, but he said he spoke to Mathias Cormann, who is acting in the role while Turnbull is overseas.

He also says he won’t “snipe” from the back bench.

“I want to assist my colleagues, where I can, to keep their seats and also, quite naturally, in April, a baby will be born. I’ll have other things on my mind,” he said.

Joyce said he would not be endorsing a replacement at Monday’s party room meeting.

Three potential contenders are David Littleproud, David Gillespie and Michael McCormack.

Turnbull thanked Joyce for his service.

“The Coalition between the Liberals and the Nationals is Australia’s most successful political partnership, having endured for more than 95 years,” he said in a statement.

“This partnership is undiminished and will continue to deliver opportunity and security for all Australians.”

Joyce is facing an investigation by the National Party’s executive into an allegation of sexual harassment against a West Australian woman.

Victorian MP Andrew Broad became the first Nationals federal MP to call for the leader to quit earlier today.

 

 

Broad’s intervention came before the party confirmed late on Thursday it had received a formal sexual harassment complaint against Joyce.

Federal director Ben Hindmarsh said the complaint would be taken seriously, treated with strict confidentiality and given due process.

A spokesman for Joyce said he had been “made indirectly aware” of the allegation and described it as “spurious and defamatory”.

more to come

– AAP

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