In not-so-shocking news, a Four Corners investigation has revealed a scandalous culture of sexism and inappropriate behaviour within Canberra’s Liberal Party.
In a series of interviews with current and former politicians, as well as staffers, an ABC Four Corners investigation has revealed not only inappropriate behaviour but also secret relationships between junior staff and senior Liberal ministers.
Arriving over two years since the ‘Bundle of Joyce’ scandal rocked Australian headlines in 2018, the new investigation revealed that Federal Attorney-General, Christian Porter, had engaged in unsavoury behaviour with young staffers.
In fact, the infamous “bonk ban” introduced by Turnbull after Joyce-gate was, in fact, also aimed at Porter and now-Acting Immigration Minister, Alan Tudge – who was also having an affair with a female adviser in 2017.
For those asking, the reasons tonight’s #4Corners focuses on Liberals are: 1.The Liberal Party is in government 2.The politicians concerned are Ministers of the Crown 3.The conduct identified is now banned in the PM’s Ministerial Standards introduced in 2018 #4Corners #auspol
— Sally Neighbour (@neighbour_s) November 9, 2020
“I had a meeting with Porter in my office, and I told him that I had had reports of him being out in public, having had too much to drink and in the company with young women,” Turnbull told Four Corners.
“He acknowledged that; he didn’t argue with that.
“And I just said, ‘Look, this is unacceptable conduct for a Cabinet minister and it exposes you to the risk of compromise.'”
Speaking to dozens of former and currently serving political staffers, Members of Parliament, and members of the legal profession, Four Corners also brought to light a culture of casual misogyny in Porter’s previous behaviour.
“For all of that time I’ve known him to be someone who was, in my opinion, based on what I saw, deeply sexist and actually misogynist in his treatment of women, in the way he spoke about women,” described Kathleen Foley, a barrister who was coached by Porter in debating from when she was 16 years old and later worked with him in the WA legal sector.
Four Corners has established that in 2017 at ‘Public Bar’ — a watering hole for Canberra’s public servants and journalists — several Liberal staffers observed Porter “kissing and cuddling” a young woman, with those staffers then expressing concern that his behaviour exposed him to risk.
“I was really worried about it ending up in the papers,” said Rachelle Miller, who was an adviser to Alan Tudge at the time. “It would do a lot of damage to the Government. It would be a scandal that we didn’t need.”
However, Rachelle Miller and Alan Tudge, both of whom were married with children, also had an affair in 2017. While the affair was consensual, Miller believes that the power imbalance between her and Tudge made the affair unacceptable.
“Where there’s significant power imbalances with senior ministers and perhaps junior staff, I think that absolutely there needs to be an acknowledgement that that sort of behaviour is not OK,” she said.
Tudge also pressured Miller not to admit to the affair, which was circling the rumour-mill of Parliament House at the time.
“He put a lot of pressure on me and quote-unquote asked me to ‘war-game’ the lines that I was going to give the journalists to try and kill the story,” she said.
What’s worse is that during his steamy 2017, Mr Tudge simultaneously claimed to be socially conservative and an advocate for ‘traditional marriage’, in what was the height of Australia’s infamous same-sex marriage plebiscite.
During the same-sex marriage debate, Tudge told Parliament that by changing the Marriage Act “the institution itself would potentially be weakened”.
Absolutely here for Turnbull’s sweet, ice cold revenge #fourcorners
— Sally Rugg (@sallyrugg) November 9, 2020
Speaking to Four Corners, Turnbull confirmed that this culture of hypocrisy ran strongest with those who were the most ‘sanctimonious’ – a fancier word for conservative.
“There’s no question that some of the most trenchant opponents of same-sex marriage, all in the name of traditional marriage, were at the same time enthusiastic practitioners of traditional adultery,” Mr Turnbull said.
“As I said many times, this issue of the controversy over same-sex marriage was dripping with hypocrisy, and the pools were deepest at the feet of the sanctimonious.”
Both Porter and Tudge have now responded to the broadcast. In a statement issued by Porter, he “categorically rejected” the claims, asserting that “the other party subjected to these baseless claims directly rebutted the allegation to 4 Corners, yet the programme failed to report that.”
— Paul Osborne AAP (@osbornep) November 9, 2020
Porter revealed he will be considered legal options due to defamation. Yet he also claimed that the ABC journalist, Louise Milligan, “never contacted me or my office”, however, he has since acknowledged that Four Corners tried to contact his office numerous times.
So Christian Porter lied in his official statement then
Meanwhile, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, Tudge described in a statement: “I regret my actions immensely and the hurt it caused my family. I also regret the hurt that Ms Miller has experienced.”
The whole thing has well and truly rattled the landscape of Australian politics, so much so that earlier today Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed the scandal – although it was only to argue that the issues had already been dealt with during Turnbull’s tenure (and accuse the broadcast of focusing on “one side of politics”).
— Tegan George (@tegangeorge) November 10, 2020
You can watch the Four Corners exposé for yourself, here.