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McCormack to become Australia's next deputy prime minister

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Michael McCormack will be Australia's next deputy prime minister, replacing Barnaby Joyce who stepped down last week after an extramarital affair with a former aide.

[CANBERRA] Michael McCormack will be Australia's next deputy prime minister, replacing Barnaby Joyce who stepped down last week after an extramarital affair with a former aide.

Mr McCormack, 53, a former journalist and businessman who's largely unknown to the general public, landed the role Monday after he was selected as leader of the Nationals, the junior partner in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's coalition government.

"I want to make sure that people know that in me they have a fighter," Mr McCormack, who has been a lawmaker since 2010, told reporters after he beat maverick George Christensen in a ballot of National lawmakers. "I have a huge challenge ahead of me."

Mr McCormack's appointment should act as a circuit-breaker for the government after Mr Joyce's affair dominated headlines for weeks and saw the main opposition Labor party pull further ahead in opinion polls. Mr Turnbull needs to focus voters' attention on his policy agenda, including passing corporate and personal tax cuts, ahead of elections due by next year.

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Mr Joyce, who led the rural-based Nationals for two years, will remain in parliament on the backbench. After the story broke this month that the 50-year-old father of four is expecting a baby with his new partner, ending his 24-year marriage, Mr Turnbull accused Mr Joyce of making a "shocking error of judgment".

The saga has spurred a debate about what parts of a parliamentarian's life are private and should be off-limits to media reporting. Citing the scandal, Mr Turnbull overhauled the code of conduct for government ministers and barred them from sexual relations with their staff.

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