Cracks widen in Australian coalition as deputy PM calls Turnbull ‘inept’

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce arrives during House of Representatives Question Time at Parliament House on Wednesday, February 13. (AAP via Reuters)
Updated 16 February 2018

Cracks widen in Australian coalition as deputy PM calls Turnbull ‘inept’

SYDNEY: A major rift opened up in Australia’s fragile ruling coalition on Friday as Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce refused to quit over an affair with a staff member, and derided Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s condemnation of his behavior as “inept.”
Turnbull, whose coalition holds a razor-thin majority of just one seat, said on Thursday Joyce, had shown a “shocking error of judgment” for conducting the affair with his former press secretary, who is now pregnant, and called on his deputy to consider his position.
The comments were seen as a thinly veiled call for the National Party leader to resign from cabinet, but Joyce, a married father of four who had campaigned on “family values,” said on Friday he had the support of his colleagues to continue.
Joyce leads the rural-based National Party, the junior partner in the center-right government led by Turnbull’s Liberal Party, a political alliance that has existed since 1923.
“Comments by the prime minister yesterday at his press conference, I have to say that in many instances, they caused further harm,” Joyce told a press conference in Canberra, wearing his trademark bushman’s hat.
“I believe they were in many instances inept and most definitely in many instances unnecessary ... All that is going to do is basically pull the scab off for everybody to have a look at.”
Turnbull refused to comment on Joyce’s criticism but the public spat fuels pressure on the prime minister to sack his deputy, which would put the government’s one-seat majority at risk should he choose to leave parliament.
The Senate on Thursday passed a motion for Joyce to resign over the affair, saying he had breached standards of behavior expected of a minister.
Although lawmakers had previously been reluctant to criticize Joyce, a plain-spoken small-town accountant turned politician, he has come under pressure following revelations that his former staffer was given two highly paid jobs after leaving his office.
“This government is in crisis. The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister are at war with each other. This crisis cannot be allowed to continue. Malcolm Turnbull must sack the Deputy Prime Minister from the Cabinet,” said Bill Shorten, leader of Australia’s main opposition Labour Party.
Eager to draw a line under the scandal, Turnbull said he will change the ministerial conduct rules, new standards broadly similar to a ban on relationships between lawmakers and staffers adopted last week by US Congress.
Unlike the US rules, the Australian rules currently only relate to cabinet ministers and their direct subordinates, leading to criticism of the changes.


Morocco, Spain to hold talks about overlapping territorial waters

Updated 25 January 2020

Morocco, Spain to hold talks about overlapping territorial waters

  • The territorial waters Morocco has claimed include the coast off Western Sahar
  • The territory has been contested between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front since the Spanish colonial period ended in 1975

RABAT: The Moroccan and Spanish foreign ministers said on Friday their countries would hold talks about overlapping areas of ocean that they both claim rights to in the North Atlantic.
The territorial waters Morocco has claimed include the coast off Western Sahara, a territory that has been contested between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front since the Spanish colonial period ended in 1975.
Morocco’s parliament passed two bills this week to give domestic legal cover to a coastal area the North African country already controls, causing concern in Spain’s Canary Islands, where the government warned of overlaps with Spanish territorial waters.
Morocco’s foreign minister Nasser Bourita said that defining territorial waters was a “sovereign right” and that his country aimed to upgrade domestic law in compliance with the UN law of the sea convention.
“In case of overlaps, international law requires states to negotiate,” said Bourita following talks with his Spanish peer, Arancha Gonzalez Laya.
“Morocco rejects unilateral acts and fait accompli,” he said, adding that Spain was a “strategic partner” and Morocco’s largest trading partner.
Gonzalez Laya said Morocco’s willingness to negotiate “reassures the Canary Islands.”
“Morocco is a source of stability for Spain,” she said, citing “close cooperation” in the fight against jihadists and illegal migration.