Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop has backed Malcolm Turnbull’s ministerial sex ban (File).Opposition leader Bill Shorten has committed Labor to adhere to Malcom Turnbull’s new code of conduct banning ministers from having sex with staff, but is concerned the existing code is not being enforced.
The Labor leader’s comments came as deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop raised privacy issues around the ban, which the prime minister imposed following Barnaby Joyce’s affair with his ex-staffer and now pregnant partner Vikki Campion.
But she has acknowledged the prime minister’s changes to the ministerial code of conduct bring the government into line with many workplaces.
“What the prime minister is seeking to do is ensure that there are not relationships within ministers’ offices that can lead to an improper influence over a minister’s decisions to conflicts of interest, to misuse of taxpayers funds,” Ms Bishop told Sky News from London.
“There are still areas of a politician’s life that are and should be private.”
Asked directly if she supported the ban, she said: “I will abide by the ministerial code of conduct.”
Mr Shorten told reporters on Monday afternoon Ms Bishop’s comments around private lives made sense.
“She said she’ll make a go of this code of conduct; so will Labor,” he said, committing Labor’s support for the first time since Mr Turnbull’s announcement on Thursday.
Labor would not overturn the changes to the code if it won power at the next election, later this year or early next year, Mr Shorten said.
But he said “poor decisions” were more of a problem than the lack of a sex ban.
“The code of conduct already, I think, covers Mr Joyce’s behaviour, the problem is Mr Turnbull won’t enforce the code of conduct,” he said.
A Newspoll published on Monday showed 64 per cent of ns supported the ban, with 25 per cent opposed.
Nationals MP George Christensen questioned the regulation of relationships between grown adults.
But it was the prime minister’s decision and MPs would have to abide by it, he said.
“I certainly don’t engage in any of those relationships with my staff members and they’re probably very glad for it,” he told reporters in Mackay.