Questions for PM after Canberra affair
The ex-lover of Liberal frontbencher Alan Tudge has lodged a formal complaint over her treatment in parliament revealing she believes she was "black-listed" by the Liberal Party as the Prime Minister was accused of "mansplaining" to a female minister.
Mother of two Rachelle Miller, a respected senior press secretary during the Turnbull Government, confessed to a sexual relationship with Mr Tudge last night on Four Corners.
Taking to social media to directly challenge the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, she said on Tuesday that it was never just about a consensual relationship in the workplace.
"ScottMorrison, it's not about the #bonkban It's about how I was treated in our workplace, which ended my career!'' Ms Miller said.
"Those Ministers were promoted, I was black-listed. I made a formal complaint, will you ensure it's investigated?"
@ScottMorrisonMP it’s not about the #bonkban It’s about how I was treated in our workplace, which ended my career! Those Ministers were promoted, I was blacklisted. I made formal complaint, will you ensure it’s investigated? @Milliganreports— Rachelle Miller (@RachelleJMiller) November 10, 2020
The wife of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also weighed in with support for Ms Miller on Tuesday after watching the expose.
"Totally unfair on women like Rachelle Miller caught in this. However consensual relationships are, women pay the price,'' Lucy Turnbull said.
True as can possibly be. Totally unfair on women loek Rachelle Miller caught in this. However consensual relationships are, women pay the price. Also when boot is on the other foot like it was for @emma_husar #ChangetheBlokeyBubble https://t.co/pYQ8EGKHm0— Lucy Turnbull AO (@LucyTurnbull_AO) November 10, 2020
Ms Miller worked as a press secretary for Mr Tudge when he was in human services, admitting the working relationship turned romantic in 2017, a decision she ultimately bitterly regretted.
Earlier, Scott Morrison demanded journalists stop referring to a "bonk ban" when it comes to workplace rules prohibiting senior ministers having sex with their staff describing it as demeaning a serious issue.
"Sorry, how this ban is referred to I think is quite dismissive of the seriousness of the issue and I would ask the media to stop referring to it in that way,'' he said.
"We took it very seriously and I think constantly referring to it in that way dismisses the seriousness of this issue, it's a very serious issue. Thanks."
But it was his decision to jump in and answer the question after the social services minister Anne Rushton was asked for her reflections on being a woman in politics that prompted social media to erupt that the Prime Minister was "mansplaining".
"Scott, just let her speak,'' Labor frontbencher Penny Wong said on Twitter.
Scott, just let her speak. https://t.co/mCsxqL9zz5— Senator Penny Wong (@SenatorWong) November 10, 2020
This should be used in training materials as what not to do https://t.co/moPDeU4mWy— CJ 1.5m Josh (@cjjosh) November 10, 2020
On Monday, the former press secretary Ms Miller revealed she had an affair with Mr Tudge while working in his office and was left feeling like "damaged goods" after he asked her to war-game denials.
Ms Miller told Four Corners that Canberra could be a "highly sexualised environment."
"I don't for a moment kind of say that all the men were predators and all the women were victims, but, you know, it was a highly sexualised environment at times, and I think that's a consequence of the stress," she said.
"It's kind of that "work hard, play hard" mentality that I've seen before early in my career And there is a kind of … an almost gung-ho kind of mentality by a lot of the senior males that they're kind of almost beyond reproach, like, they can just get away with things. And nobody calls that behaviour out."
The program detailed Mr Tudge's conservative views and his public reservations about changing the Marriage Act to include same-sex couples.
After the affair ended, Ms Miller said she was later demoted in a restructure and felt she had no choice but to leave politics.
"I knew I was leaving a job that I really loved, but I didn't see that there was any other way out,'' she said.
"You know, I actually at that time viewed myself as damaged goods and I was really worried about this coming out and impacting our chances at the election."
Mr Tudge said in a statement: "Matters that occurred in my personal life in 2017 were aired on the ABC's Four Corners program.
"I regret my actions immensely and the hurt it caused my family. I also regret the hurt that Ms Miller has experienced."
In 2018, Mr Turnbull rewrote the code of ministerial standards to ban ministers from having sexual relationships with staff
However, the affair Ms Miller took place in 2017 when Mr Tudge was in Human Services, a period in which she also later moved out of his office and into another minister's office.
As a result, there's no suggestion that Mr Tudge was in breach of the code, which only applied to sex with staffers in your office.
Four Corners did not claim that any senior minister had breached the "bonk ban" or the code of conduct.
The broadcast of the program last night follows allegations raised by Four Corners executive producer Sally Neighbour that the political pressure applied to the ABC had been "extreme and unrelenting."
Attorney-General Christian Porter has flatly rejected claims he was kissing a young staffer in a Canberra bar.
But he repeatedly declined to say if he had ever had a sexual relationship with another Liberal staffer.
"I'm not even sure the program made that allegation,'' he said.
"They (the ABC report) indicated I had, I think implied that I had with a person I had a drink at a bar with and I said to Four Corners that their depiction of those interactions in that bar three-and-a-half- years ago were wrong. I told Malcolm there was no substance to rumours around that bar story."
When asked again if he had ever had a sexual relationship with a staffer, Mr Porter said: "I've answered your question."
Mr Porter insisted his looming divorce from second wife Jennifer Negus was not because of "this sort of stuff".
"I feel so desperately sorry for my beautiful wife Jen that she had to watch all of that and see this stuff from university and see it cut up and chopped up in that way," he said.
"Now, like any couple we had our ups and downs and problems and difficulties and I would say I was far from a perfect husband in many regards but our separation was not about this sort of stuff.
"I've never breached that ministerial code of conduct and there's never been any suggestion I have."
Originally published as Questions for PM after Canberra affair