By Jeremy Sollars
BREAKING: Barnaby Joyce has quit as Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Nationals and will head to the backbench as the MP for New England.
Mr Joyce made the announcement at a media conference in Armidale just minutes ago this afternoon, Friday 23 February.
The move brings an end to the scandal that has engulfed Mr Joyce for more than two weeks after it was revealed he is expecting a child with his former staffer-turned-partner, Vikki Campion.
Mr Joyce’s move to the backbench means also giving up the portfolios of Infrastructure and Transport, with his salary dropping from $416,000 to about $200,000 a year.
The new National Party leader will become deputy prime minister under the Coalition agreement.
Veterans’ Affairs Minister and Nationals MP for the New South Wales seat of Riverina Michael McCormack has been tipped as the next Nationals leader, with a party room meeting likely to be held on Monday in Canberra.
Speaking to national media on Wednesday, Mr Joyce called for Australians to “move on” from the affair but that appeared to have backfired on Thursday when backbench MP Andrew Broad called publicly for him to quit.
His resignation follows confirmation this week from the Nationals that the party has received a formal complaint involving an allegation of sexual harassment against Mr Joyce.
Mr Joyce took a week’s personal leave last Friday.
Local federal MP for Maranoa David Littleproud – a close political and personal friend of Mr Joyce – had repeatedly stated over the last fortnight that he continues to support Mr Joyce and that his leader has the majority support of the Nationals party room.
Comment is being sought from Mr Littleproud.