Australia will get its third federal minister responsible for aviation matters in two years after Barnaby Joyce’s decision to resign as Nationals leader and move to the back bench.
Joyce told reporters in Armidale on Friday he would officially step down as leader of the Nationals, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport when the party room meets in Canberra on Monday morning.
The decision to resign comes two weeks after it emerged Joyce had separated from his wife and started a relationship with a former staffer, who is pregnant.
The revelations, as well as scrutiny over a rent-free apartment Joyce has been living in that was provided by a friend, led to some Nationals to call for his resignation.
While the Member for New England in the House of Representatives initially resisted the push to go, he told reporters on Friday the current “cacophony of issues has to be put aside”, including fresh allegations on Friday regarding a sexual harassment complaint against him.
“I think it’s my responsibility to do my bit to make sure that happens,” Joyce said.
“It is quite evident that you can’t go to the dispatch box while issues like that are surrounding you.
“It’s incredibly important that there be a circuit-breaker, not just for the parliament, but more importantly, a circuit-breaker for Vikki, for my unborn child, my daughters and for Nat.”
ABC News published video of Joyce’s media conference on Twitter.
— ABC News (@abcnews) February 23, 2018AdvertisementAdvertisement
"I'm the public figure, go after me! But don't go after private individuals," @Barnaby_Joyce asked whether the Australian media should expose personal relationships for public scrutiny. #auspol pic.twitter.com/84JlmlxPaQ
— ABC News (@abcnews) February 23, 2018
Joyce replaced Darren Chester as Minister for Infrastructure and Transport in December 2017 following a cabinet reshuffle.
Chester had been in the role since 2016, when he took over from the retiring Warren Truss.
Joyce said he would stay on as the Member for New England. He was returned to Parliament in a by-election in December 2017 after being forced to resign from the House of Representatives when the High Court found him to be a dual citizen.