Politics

Prime Minister denies plans to sack minister from front bench


A spokesman for the Prime Minister has denied the PM is ready to sack Education Minister Alan Tudge after allegations were made last year that he had an “abusive” relationship with a staffer.

The Ten Network reported on Tuesday evening that Mr Tudge was about to be permanently sacked from the front bench.

Mr Tudge had stood aside from his position in December while allegations made by former adviser Rachelle Miller were part of a formal investigation.

“The matter is still in process and is being undertaken without prejudice to ensure it is dealt with fairly,” the Prime Minister’s spokesman said.

A report into the matter has been compiled by the former inspector-general of intelligence, Dr Vivienne Thom, with consultations soon to be completed.

The deputy secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Stephanie Foster, told Senate estimates this week that the report had been concluded and handed to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office late last month.

Ms Foster told the Senate committee she understood the Prime Minister had been briefed on the report’s contents.

Mr Tudge did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Ten’s story, which included suggestions that the report had made adverse findings against him, including for allegedly promoting Ms Miller while the two had an affair.

alan tudge rachelle miller
Alan Tudge and then-staffer Rachelle Miller, with whom he an extramarital affair. Photo: ABC

The minister had confirmed he had a consensual affair with Ms Miller in 2017 but rejected her characterisation of the relationship, including claims he had once kicked and sworn at her in a hotel room, as completely untrue.

Ten reported that so advanced were the plans to sack Mr Tudge that his name had been effaced from outside his ministerial office.

The story, which the network said was being broadcast without the minister’s knowledge, came after he announced plans to stand again for the seat of Aston at the next election.

A spokesman for Mr Morrison referred questions about the minister’s office to the Department of Parliamentary Services.

“The Commonwealth was able to advise Ms Miller that, to the extent that it was within the Commonwealth’s power to release the report, it would, but that we had to be conscious that there may be third-party concerns to take into account,” Ms Foster told Senate estimates.

The Prime Minister’s office said it supported the approach of releasing the report.

Ms Miller refused to participate in the inquiry, which she argued was being conducted on terms that were too restrictive.

A consultation process with parties involved in the report is under way.

A total of $80,000 has been spent on the investigation to date.

Earlier on Tuesday, Minister for Finance Simon Birmingham declined to answer questions from Labor about whether the government was planning to axe Mr Tudge, accusing the Opposition of playing political games.

“So you’ve not been part of any discussions about the sacking of Mr Tudge?” Senator Katy Gallagher asked at a Senate estimates hearing.

Mr Birmingham characterised the remark as a political ploy.

Earlier this week, NSW Senator Hollie Hughes lashed out at Ms Miller on social media website Twitter.

“Stop making unfounded accusations then hiding behind false legal premises,” Senator Hughes wrote.

“I also stand with Tudgey!”





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