Australia's Barnaby Joyce is stepping down as deputy prime minister amid new allegation of sexual harassment

  • Australia's deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce said he is quitting his position as deputy leader of the country, and as the leader of the conservative National Party.
  • This comes after weeks of damaging revelations over an affair with a staff member who is carrying his child, and a new allegation of sexual harassment.
Michael Masters | Getty Images

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said on Friday he will resign as leader of his party and will move to the backbench after weeks of pressure over an extra-marital affair with his former media secretary.

Joyce said he will step down on Monday as leader of the National Party, the junior partner in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's centre-right coalition. He will remain in parliament, safeguarding Turnbull's shaky one-seat majority.

He said he decided to quit after an allegation of sexual harassment emerged on Friday. He denied any wrongdoing but acknowledged the allegation had hastened his decision.

"I will say on Monday morning at the party room I will step down as the leader of the National Party and deputy leader of Australia," Joyce said.

National Party federal director Ben Hindmarsh said on Friday the party had received the sexual harassment allegation against Joyce but declined to give any details.

The National Party will now elect a new leader, who will also become deputy prime minister under the terms of the coalition agreement with Turnbull's Liberal party.

Joyce, a practising Catholic, campaigned on family values and is the father of four children but has left his marriage of 24 years and is expecting a child with his former media secretary.

His resignation comes after a falling out with Turnbull, who is in the United States for meetings with U.S. President Donald Trump and who declined to leave him in charge while he is out of the country.

Turnbull called Joyce's affair a "shocking error of judgment" last week, to which Joyce responded by calling Turnbull "inept."