Western Australian senator Mathias Cormann will be Acting Prime Minister next week, with Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop overseas and the embattled Barnaby Joyce to take leave.
Mr Joyce has been under fire this week for a personal relationship with a former staff member.
Today, the Senate passed a resolution calling on him to resign from his role as deputy prime minister; Mr Joyce has resisted calls to stand down and instead will take leave.
This means he will not be acting prime minister while Mr Turnbull is in the US next week.
“He needs that time to reflect … to seek forgiveness,” Mr Turnbull said at a press conference today.
“We know that the real issue is the terrible hurt and humiliation that Barnaby, by his conduct, has visited on his wife Natalie and their daughters and indeed his new partner.
“He has set off a world of woe for those women and appalled all of us.
“Our hearts go out to them.
“It has been a dreadful thing for them to go through.”
With Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop also to be overseas, Senator Cormann, who is leader of the government in the upper house, will take on the role for 10 days.
Mr Turnbull said the saga broadly raised issues about the culture of parliament, and said he would today change the ministerial code of conduct to prevent ministers having relationships with staff.
“The truth is that (the code) is deficient, it is truly deficient,” he said.
“It does not speak strongly enough for the values that we all should live.”
He said the amended code would speak more clearly about the values of respect in workplaces, particularly towards women.