Turnbull bans ministers from sex with staff

Glenn Hunt/ Getty Images.Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has banned sexual relationships between federal ministers and their staff, saying deputy PM Barnaby Joyce “made a shocking error of judgement” in having an affair with a staffer 17 years his junior.

Turnbull said the current ministerial code of conduct was “truly deficient” and “does not speak strongly enough” on workplace values of respect and “workplaces where women are respected”.

“The truth is as we know, is most of the ministers, most of the bosses in this building if you like, are men and there is a gender, a real gender perspective here,” he said.

In a dramatic rebuke of his junior Coalition partner, the PM’s changes mean the Nationals leader would have been in breach of the code had the new standards been in place last year when his off-and-on affair was underway with his former staffer. Vikki Campion, 33, is now seven months pregnant with their child.

“I am making today, some change to the ministerial standards and I want to say that these will not be the last ones I will make,” Turnbull said.

Here are the the additional words the Prime Minister is adding to his Ministerial Code of Conduct:

This statement is not and cannot be a comprehensive statement of rules. Ministers need to exercise their judgement and common sense in complying with both the principles and spirit of the standards and their letter. Ministers must recognise that while they are entitled to privacy in personal matters, that occupy positions of great responsibility and public trust.

The public have high expectations of them in terms of their personal conduct and decorum. Ministers should be very conscious that their spouses and children sacrifice a great deal so they can carry on their political career and their families deserve honour and respect.

Ministers should also recognise that they must lead by example. So, I have today added to the standards to make a very clear and unequivocal provision, ministers, regardless of whether they are married or single, must not engage in sexual relations with staff. Doing so will constitute a breach of the standards and while this new standard is very specific, ministers should be acutely aware of the context in which I making this change and the need for them always to behave in their personal relations with others and especially their staff, the staff of other ministers or members of the Austrian public service, with integrity and respect.

On Barnaby Joyce he said:

This week, most attention has been focused on Barnaby Joyce and his conduct.

There has been a lot of discussion about whether he complied with ministerial standards. Whether he complied with the requirements for disclosing use of government entitlements.

Barnaby has given me – as I said in the House – an unequivocal assurance that he has complied with the ministerial standards and with both the use and reporting of ministerial and other entitlements.

But I think we know that the real issue is 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. It has been a dreadful thing for them to go through in the glare of publicity. Marriage break-ups are dreadful, but to do it, to have to experience it in the full glare of the spotlight, is a dreadful business.

Now, Barnaby knows he made that shocking error of judgement. He knows that he let down his wife and daughters and he has apologised for that and to them.

He is taking leave next week and I have encouraged him to take that leave. I think that he needs that leave. He needs that time to reflect. He needs that time to seek forgiveness and understanding from his wife and girls. He needs to make a new home for his partner and their baby, who is coming in April.

But, this raises today, as this has raised this week, some very serious issues about the culture of this place, of this Parliament.

The Prime Minister’s edict comes after he announced that Joyce would be taking next week off as personal leave while Turnbull is in the US, and finance minister will be acting PM in his place.

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