Australian lawmakers debate banning sex with staff members

2018-02-09 15:07
Australia's Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce addresses a press conference in Sydney. (William West, AFP, File)

Australia's Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce addresses a press conference in Sydney. (William West, AFP, File)

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Canberra - Australian lawmakers are debating introducing a US-style ban on legislators having sex with staff after the deputy prime minister and a former staffer were revealed to be expectant parents.

The US House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a resolution prohibiting members from engaging in sexual relationships with staff.

On the same day, Australian newspapers reported that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and his former press adviser Vikki Campion are expecting a baby in April.

While some independent and minor party lawmakers see merit in the Australian Parliament considering a similar ban, those in major parties are talking down the prospect.

READ: Deputy PM's affair with staffer grips Australia

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Friday that while lawmakers were accountable, they also had a right to consensual sexual relationships.

"Relations between consenting adults is not something that normally, you would be justified in, if you like, seeking to regulate," Turnbull told reporters.

"Adults can conduct their relationships, if it's consensual, respectful - that's their right," he added.

'Influential position'

Independent lawmaker Cathy McGowan on Thursday invited legislators to discuss a potential motion in Parliament to "address personal relationships within the workplace".

"There is a belief the Parliament is behind expectations and corporate practice," McGowan said in a statement.

Independent lawmaker Bob Katter gave in-principle support for a Congress-style ban.

"People's private lives are their private lives, but I do make the comment: Not staff. Please fellas, not staff," Katter told Sky News television.

"You're in such an enormously influential position with staff," he added.

Attorney-General Christian Porter described such a ban as a "very unwieldy law". Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus also questioned whether such a ban should be legislated.

Joyce, the 50-year-old leader of The Nationals party, told Parliament in December that he had separated from his wife Natalie Joyce, who is the mother of his four daughters.

But he did not confirm his relationship with Campion until newspapers published photographs of the pregnant 33-year-old on Tuesday.

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