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
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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.


Six militants, two soldiers killed in NW Pakistan gunfight — military

Updated 6 min 29 sec ago
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Six militants, two soldiers killed in NW Pakistan gunfight — military

  • The clash took place in South Waziristan after security forces were tipped off about the presence of militants who had entered the area pretending to be returning displaced locals, a military statement said
  • Six militants and two soldiers were killed in the fighting, including Nanakar, who was wanted for several murders of local elders and tribesmen

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan: Six militants and two soldiers were killed on Saturday during a fierce gunfight in a northwestern Pakistani tribal district bordering Afghanistan, military and local security officials said.
The clash took place in South Waziristan’s Spina Mela village after security forces were tipped off about the presence of militants who had entered the area pretending to be returning displaced locals, a military statement said.
Six militants and two soldiers were killed in the fighting, including a most wanted militant called Nanakar, the statement added.
Nanakar, who goes by one name, was wanted for several murders of local elders and tribesmen.
The troops also seized weapons, ammunition and devices through which militants were in communication with handlers across the border in Afghanistan, the military said.
Two local security officials in Miranshah, the main town of neighboring North Waziristan, confirmed the clash and casualties to AFP.
The US has repeatedly accused Pakistan of allowing the tribal areas to harbor militants fighting in Afghanistan — an allegation Islamabad has consistently denied.