Australia's PM in damage control as scandal undermines deputy


Mr Joyce will take personal leave this week after increased pressure from many to step down as Nationals leader. "There is no going back now for either of them".

"He knows better than I the damage that he's causing". Until we get this issue off the front pages the government's just going to bleed.

The deputy prime minister also told Mr Turnbull to butt out of National party politics after he was told to "consider his position".

"There are no issues between the Liberal and National parties at all", Turnbull said, characterising the relationship between the two factions as "the most enduring political alliance in Australian history and it will continue".

Cabinet minister Greg Hunt said the Liberals would work with whomever the Nationals chose as their leader.

The Prime Minister can not sack Mr Joyce because it is up to the Nationals MPs to choose their own party leader under the coalition agreement.

"I believe they were in many instances inept and most definitely in many instances unnecessary".

"I can assure you that the relations are very strong", he said at a televised press conference in Melbourne.

Mr Drum condemned the attempted intervention and insisted Mr Joyce and Mr Turnbull could "absolutely" maintain a functional relationship despite the turmoil of the past week.

"Many of those questions are more suitable to be directed to the Deputy Prime Minister's office, but my priority is working for the people of Hinkler on announcements and policy, like the Cashless Debit Card, which I've been working tirelessly on to help the vulnerable children in our community", he said.

'If Turnbull wants to stay in government he can't fire Joyce but he can minimise his impact, and he's already doing that with his appointment of Mathias Cormann'.

Speculation was that Mr Pitt was dumped because he and Mr Joyce do not get along.

Turnbull announced that ministers "regardless of whether they are married or single, must not engage in sexual relations with staff".

'The ban is bonkers, ' he wrote on Facebook.

"Everyone is expendable", Mr Howarth said.

Veterans Affairs Minister Michael McCormack, a member of the National Party who has been passed over for the leadership, declined to say whether he would challenge for the office.

'Quite frankly, the way these two men are behaving, neither of them are fit for the high office they now hold, ' he said.

Most analysts suggested the split was unsustainable and would probably end with Mr Joyce's resignation.

'Australians have every reason to be angry and frustrated when the two most senior Australian leaders are not focused other than anything other than their own jobs'.

On Saturday, Mr Joyce told the PM he understood the sentiment, but expressed his concern over Mr Turnbull's forcefulness - and also the timing of the tirade, which he argued undermined their ability to move on with the introduction of a new ministerial code of conduct to ban sex with staff.

Having weathered revelations he was expecting a baby with his former staffer Vikki Campion, Joyce's future hinged on whether he could explain the creation of a series of high-paying jobs for his now-partner Ms Campion.

Joyce's marriage with estranged wife Natalie has ended.