Australian PM Turnbull meets deputy to fix sex-scandal split

Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull meets deputy Barnaby Joyce to fix sex-scandal split

As the stalemate over the future of Mr Joyce continued at the weekend among warring Nationals, Newspoll found Labor had regained its convincing election-winning margin of 53 to 47 per cent in two-party-preferred terms after the Coalition had closed the gap to four points in the first Newspoll of the year a fortnight ago.

Mr Turnbull's Liberals are the dominant partner, but the party relies on support from Mr Joyce's rural-based Nationals to govern.

Turnbull lambasted Joyce on Thursday over an affair that ended his 24-year marriage and accused him of making a "shocking error of judgment".

At the time, Mr Pitt told the NewsMail he had a "professional working relationship" with Mr Joyce despite media reports suggesting otherwise.

Turnbull said today he didn't apologise to Joyce because "there's nothing to apologise for".

Despite a swell of support following the PM's attack on Mr Joyce this week, colleagues are increasingly unsure if he will survive the scandal.

Australians believe Barnaby Joyce should resign as Nationals leader following his extramarital affair with a staffer, the latest Newspoll reveals.

Asked on 3AW on Monday morning whether he would sack a minister in breach of his new ban on sexual relationships with staff, Turnbull said: "Oh yes, certainly, absolutely", before qualifying the statement with "I'd expect them to resign, I wouldn't expect I'd need to sack them".

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He later heaped criticism on Joyce, saying the affair had caused "terrible hurt and humiliation" to his family and new partner.

"Do we think it's a good idea for ministers to have sexual relations with their staff? No?"

Former prime minister Tony Abbott took a thinly-veiled swipe at Turnbull earlier on Saturday, saying in a televised interview from Melbourne that one party shouldn't give another party public advice.

Veterans Affairs Minister Michael McCormack - considered the most likely National lawmaker to replace Joyce - did not rule out a leadership challenge yesterday but said he didn't want to get "too far ahead of myself", the Sun-Herald reported.

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. Whoever the Nationals choose to lead them also becomes the nation's deputy leader.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said yesterday, "The way these two men are behaving, neither is fit for the high offices they now hold".

"This is an absolutely full-blown political crisis", Shorten said.

Mr Turnbull, whose coalition holds a razor-thin majority of just one seat, also called on Mr Joyce to consider his position.

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