Australia

Barnaby Joyce affair saga was a distraction: Bishop

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A new poll has the Turnbull government further slipping behind Labor after the distraction of the Barnaby Joyce affair.

Deputy Liberal Leader Julie Bishop admits the Barnaby Joyce saga has been a distraction for the government as a new poll showed it has dropped further behind the opposition Labor party.

The Sky News / ReachTel poll showed the coalition's primary vote had slipped one point to 33 per cent, while Labor gained one point to 37 per cent.

The Greens also gained one point and One Nation lost one point, resulting in the government dropping two points to 46 per cent on a two-party preferred basis against a two points rise to 54 per cent for Labor.

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Malcolm Turnbull's standing as preferred prime minister also declined one point to 53 per cent, but was still ahead of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on 47 per cent.

Deputy Liberal Leader Julie Bishop says media coverage surrounding Mr Joyce's relationship with a former staffer over the past couple of weeks has been a distraction.

"Tomorrow the Nationals will elect a new leader and we get on with governing for the people of Australia," she told reporters in Adelaide on Sunday.

The Nationals party will hold a meeting on Monday where Mr Joyce will formally resign and Nationals NSW MP Michael McCormack is expected to secure the top job.

Manager of government business in the Senate Simon Birmingham wished Mr Joyce's circumstances had not arisen.

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"Barnaby has provided a circuit breaker by deciding to resign ... now we get the time, hopefully, to have a bit more clear air," he told Sky News.

Labor frontbencher Jason Clare said Mr Joyce should have been sacked weeks ago but slammed Mr Turnbull for being "too weak or incapable" for that to happen.

"It's become a bleeding ulcer for the government," Mr Clare told ABC television.

"The people of Australia have been trapped in Barnaby's bedroom."

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