Asia Minute: Australian Prime Minister Prepares for U.S. Summit; Deals with Domestic Politics

Feb 16, 2018

Malcolm Turnbull
Credit Chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff / Flickr

The Prime Minister of Australia is heading to the United States next week. Malcolm Turnbull is scheduled to meet President Trump at the White House a week from today. But the prime minister’s coalition government has been hit with a public fight over a personal matter. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

It’s been an unusual week in Australian politics. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has given a very public rebuke to his deputy because of a personal affair that has spilled over into the political world.

The incident has even led the prime minister to explicitly prohibit sex between government ministers and members of their staff.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce had an affair with his former media adviser while she was still on the government payroll. The couple is now expecting a baby, and Joyce has left his wife of 24 years.

The political fallout is widening in what the prime minister called a “shocking error of judgement.” Opposition leaders are calling for the deputy prime minister to resign.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce
Credit Simon.chamberlain / Wikimedia Commons

Joyce will be on personal leave starting next week and will not be acting prime minister while Turnbull is away from the country.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports Turnbull’s trip to the United States will be the highest-level visit by an Australian leader in more than a decade. In addition to his White House meetings, Turnbull will also hold a series of other discussions—including with the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence.

Earlier this week, Turnbull praised President Trump’s nominee as the next U.S. ambassador to Australia: Admiral Harry Harris—currently head of U.S. Pacific Command.