Two-thirds of Australians want deputy PM to resign over sex scandal-poll

The Australian High Court decision against Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, right, has left Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s coalition in the precarious position of a minority government. (AFP)
Updated 19 February 2018

Two-thirds of Australians want deputy PM to resign over sex scandal-poll

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 on Monday, adding pressure on a government already fractured by the scandal.
Joyce, a Catholic who campaigned on “family values” and who has been married for 24 years, refused to resign when it was made public he was expecting a child with his former staffer.
Some 65 percent of voters want 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 Newspoll showed.
The Liberal-National coalition has existed since 1923, with the National leader usually taking on the deputy prime ministership.
The scandal has damaged the government’s re-election chances, according to Newspoll. The government, which has only a one-seat majority, now trails the main opposition Labour Party by a margin of 53-47 percent on a two-party basis.
The government must call an election by May 2019.
With mounting public pressure, Joyce sought to turn the tide of public opinion, giving a rare interview on Monday with the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, where he blamed public life for the breakdown of his marriage.
Joyce has began a highly unusual week-long leave of absence at the urging of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who will this week travel to Washington, which would have typically seen Joyce installed as acting prime minister. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann will now be acting leader.
As well as alienating voters, the scandal has fractured the ruling conservative government, with Joyce last week publicly criticizing Turnbull for “causing further harm” through comments about his affair.
The scandal has prompted Turnbull to ban sexual relationships between ministers and their staff.
Turnbull and Joyce held urgent talks on Saturday. “We’ve put whatever tensions there were behind us,” Turnbull told a radio station in Melbourne on Monday.
However, Turnbull said there was no guarantee that Joyce would continue as deputy prime minister with the leadership decision in the hands of National Party lawmakers.
On Sunday, Australian media reported that senior National Party figures were openly canvassing constituents with a view to removing Joyce from the party leadership.


Trump signs order targeting social media giants' legal protections

Updated 11 min 28 sec ago

Trump signs order targeting social media giants' legal protections

  • President lashed out at Twitter for applying fact checks to two of his tweets

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump escalated his war on social media companies, signing an executive order Thursday challenging the liability protections that have served as a bedrock for unfettered speech on the internet.
Still, the move appears to be more about politics than substance, as the president aims to rally supporters after he lashed out at Twitter for applying fact checks to two of his tweets.
Trump said the fact checks were “editorial decisions” by Twitter and amounted to political activism. He said it should cost those companies their protection from lawsuits for what is posted on their platforms.
Trump and his allies, who rely heavily on Twitter to verbally flog their foes, have long accused the tech giants in liberal-leaning Silicon Valley of targeting conservatives on social media by fact-checking them or removing their posts.
“We’re fed up with it," Trump said, claiming the order would uphold freedom of speech.
It directs executive branch agencies to ask independent rule-making agencies including the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to study whether they can place new regulations on the companies — though experts express doubts much can be done without an act of Congress.