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Barnaby Joyce's accuser Catherine Marriott wanted probe kept 'confidential'

Mr Christensen said Mr Joyce told him he was stepping aside a couple hours before the announcement was made, unlike Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who said he found out through journalists.

He will remain in parliament, safeguarding Turnbull's shaky one-seat majority.

Mr Joyce's resignation followed revelations he's having a child with his former press secretary Vikki Campion - an affair which led to the breakdown of his 24-year marriage. "It's just completely and utterly unwarranted, the sort of observation that's happened".

His decision to call a news conference came after a new allegation of sexual harassment was made by an unidentified individual. He has denied any wrongdoing.

In a statement, Ms Marriott said she never intended for the issue to become public and had asked for the National Party to undertake a "formal and confidential" investigation into the incident. "It is a political loss to the nation but also a loss to rural and regional Australia".

Mr Joyce, who lives in north-west New South Wales and wears a cowboy hat, is perhaps best known internationally for his threat in 2015 to kill Pistol and Boo, the pet dogs of actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.

He said the Nationals should consider ending the Coalition agreement and instead support the Liberal government "with conditions attached".

The woman accusing Barnaby Joyce of sexual harassment has broken her silence.

In October previous year, the High Court ruled that dual nationals could not hold elected office, forcing several members of the governing coalition who unknowingly held New Zealander nationality to stand down, including Joyce.

Mr Joyce has previously called her allegation "spurious and defamatory" - and has called for the matter to be referred to the police so he can mount his defence.

NSW MPs Michael McCormack and David Gillespie have indicated they will vie to replace Barnaby Joyce, who announced he would resign the job following the ongoing fallout from his affair with a former staffer.

Two-thirds of Australian voters wanted Joyce to resign, The Australian newspaper's Newspoll showed earlier this week.

Joyce, who has also been criticised for living in an apartment rent-free with now partner Vikki Campion after splitting with his wife, was due to be the acting prime minister this week with Turnbull meeting US President Donald Trump in Washington.

Freed from Cabinet restraints, Abbott has criticized Turnbull's policies from the backbench, although Joyce said he would not destabilize the government.

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