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Pressure mounts on Australia deputy PM over affair

AFP  |  Sydney 

- Pressure was mounting on Australia's Tuesday amid fresh allegations that his affair with a younger former staffer, who is pregnant with their child, breached ministerial rules.

has been under intense scrutiny since the relationship was splashed across the front page of Sydney's last week, with his wife of 24 years making clear she and their four daughters were devastated.

He made a public apology to them on Tuesday and defended the two jobs, one for a minister, that his 33-year-old lover was given after she stopped working for him last year.

Joyce -- internationally renowned for threatening to euthanise Hollywood star Johnny Depp's dogs over a quarantine violation -- denied he breached the ministerial code of conduct.

It stipulates that "partners" of ministers cannot be given jobs in ministerial offices without the express approval of the

"I am very aware of the ministerial code of conduct," Joyce, of the which is in a coalition with Malcolm Turnbull's Liberals, told reporters in

"It is without a shadow of a doubt that is my partner now. But when she worked in my office, she was not my partner. When she worked in (Resources Minister) Matt Canavan's office, she was not my partner.

Joyce reportedly updated his formal register of interests last month to say he was separated from his wife, but has not added Campion, who is expecting their baby in April, as his partner.

The growing scandal has seen the Labor opposition question whether it is tenable for Joyce to continue in his position, while the Greens have demanded he resign. Breaching the code of conduct could be grounds for him to be removed from office.

New claims in on Tuesday of inappropriate behaviour by Joyce at a pub after an official function in 2011 were slammed by the 50-year-old as "serious defamation".

Turnbull and the Liberals have sought to distance themselves from the saga, which comes just months after the coalition survived a crisis over lawmakers' citizenship that threatened their slim parliamentary majority.

"The .. said that he had not discussed Ms Campion's employment with me or my office. He confirmed that the Nationals were responsible for decisions relating to staffing," Turnbull told parliament Monday.

Joyce was also embroiled in the nationality saga that saw a host of parliamentarians resign over a once-obscure rule barring dual citizens from federal office, and he had to stand for re-election in his rural constituency.

He campaigned on a platform of being a pillar of the community who upheld conservative values, including marriage, and comfortably won the crucial by-election.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, February 13 2018. 10:20 IST