Defence Minister Peter Dutton has hit back at criticisms of Alan Tudge, insisting his ministerial colleague is an “honourable and decent man”.
Former press secretary Rachelle Miller claims she was emotionally – and on one occasion physically – abused during an extramarital affair with Mr Tudge in 2017.
Mr Tudge vehemently denies the accusations, but has agreed to stand aside from his role as Education Minister while the Prime Minister’s office investigates the claims.
Mr Dutton defended his long-time colleague when questioned about the scandal on Friday, insisting Mr Tudge was a good person.
“I’ve always found Alan to be a very honourable and decent man,” Mr Dutton told Nine.
“He’s had an extramarital affair, a consensual one. He’s made a mistake. It’s cost him his marriage. There’s a lot of embarrassment on both sides.
“There are a lot of Australians who would find themselves in that position.”
The Defence Minister said he did not want to see Mr Tudge lose his job over the scandal.
“He‘s a great Minister. He’s got a great mind, a great analytical mind, and he’s been a very effective Minister,” Mr Dutton said.
“People make mistakes from time to time and he’s fessed up to that mistake and I think we allow the investigation now to be conducted.”
In 2020, Ms Miller made the extramarital affair public, initially describing it as a consensual relationship.
However, on Thursday, she revealed the situation was more complex, telling the media the relationship was abusive.
“I am fully aware that a year ago I said my relationship with Minister Alan Tudge was a consensual relationship, but it’s more complicated than that,’’ Ms Miller said.
“I was so ashamed, so humiliated, so scared, so exhausted. I told the small part of my story I was able to manage.”
She alleged Mr Tudge used their “significant power imbalance” to manipulate, bully, and scare her.
At one point, Ms Miller claims the Minister resorted to physical violence, kicking her out of his bed.
On Thursday, Liberal senator Hollie Hughes insisted it was a “he said, she said” situation, and Mr Tudge’s career should not be impacted.
“This was a consensual affair and I don‘t think people should be sacked because someone makes an accusation against them,” Senator Hughes said.
The scandal comes just days after a damning report found sexual harassment and bullying was widespread in Parliament House.
One in three people surveyed said they had been sexually harassed, with around a quarter saying the perpetrator was a politician.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday announced his department would launch an inquiry into the allegations against Mr Tudge.
Ms Miller said she wanted the government to acknowledge the struggles of women working in federal politics.
“Today I stand in my former workplace to say, again, that what happened to me in this place was not OK,” she said.
“I call on every woman in this building to stand with me, but I know that many are scared about their jobs, their livelihoods, the careers they’ve worked so hard for.
“The Liberal Party doesn’t have a women problem, it has a men problem.”
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