Australia's PM in damage control as scandal undermines deputy

'Shattered' Turnbull Joyce relationship threatens to tear apart Coalition

Mr Joyce, the leader of coalition partner National Party, is expecting a child with his new pregnant partner.

"That provoked an angry response from Mr Joyce, who said the remarks were "inept" and unnecessary".

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has held crisis talks with his deputy Barnaby Joyce to heal a unsafe rift that is threatening the ruling coalition's one-seat majority.

The pair met at the Commonwealth Parliament Offices in Sydney for over an hour on Saturday, where the two leaders discussed their public spat regarding Mr Joyce's affair with a former staffer.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, his wife Lucy Turnbull and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce at a church service in Canberra earlier this month.

While most of the 60 Minutes story was filmed well before the Joyce scandal broke, Mr Turnbull submitted to a further interview on Friday, one day after he publicly shamed the Nationals leader and announced a ban on sex between government ministers and their staff. Both agreed to move forward in the national interest, a government source told AAP.

"I don't consider that to be necessary", Ms Ardern told reporters today.

The scandal has prompted Turnbull to ban sexual relationships between ministers and their staff. "If a member of parliament has something to say to another member of parliament he or she should knock on the door or pick up the phone", he said.

"The last thing anyone wants is for politicians to be talking about themselves", Mr Abbott said.

"Obviously what else transpires - not just in our electorates but obviously on a national front - as to be thought through", he said yesterday.

Labor MP Pat Conroy described the entire scenario as a "soap opera". "All leaders should be actively trying to encourage new leaders", he told Fairfax Media. "There's a massive question to answer". Malcolm Turnbull frequently refers to her in speeches and she is considered to be one of his closest advisers.

"Saying you're speaking for 25 million people is a bit presumptuous, but I certainly felt that the values I expressed and the action I took, would have the overwhelming endorsement of Australians".

Nationals President Larry Anthony, the party's most senior bureaucrat and a former legislator, said the meeting resolved to give Joyce more time to ride out his controversies.

"He is having a week off and then we'll have our party room meeting Monday after next and we will see", she said.

Mr Joyce also doubled down on questions over the possible misuse of taxpayer funds in the saga.

The latest Newspoll finds 65% of a sample of 1,632 voters thinks Joyce should resign the leadership of the Nationals, while a third of the sample thinks he should quit parliament.

"Does he care more about himself or the country?"



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