Liberal MP Alan Tudge has quit Scott Morrison’s cabinet despite insisting an investigation into an affair and alleged abusive relationship with a former staffer had cleared him of breaking any rules.
- Scott Morrison ordered an inquiry into an allegation Alan Tudge had abused a former staffer
- Rachelle Miller did not participate in the inquiry amid concerns about the terms of reference
- Mr Tudge said he was not seeking to return to the frontbench “before the election”
Mr Tudge has strenuously denied the allegation, but he stood aside as education minister late last year when the Prime Minister announced an investigation into the claim.
Mr Morrison said the inquiry, run by former senior public servant Vivienne Thom, had not made a ruling that his former frontbencher had breached ministerial standards.
“Dr Thom found that ‘the evidence considered in this Inquiry does not provide a basis for a finding that Mr Tudge’s conduct breached the Ministerial Standards’,” Mr Morrison said late on Friday afternoon.
“I have accepted her advice.
“Today he has informed me that in the interests of his family and his own well-being and in order to focus on his re-election as the Member for Aston he is not seeking to return to the frontbench, and I support his decision. “
The investigation was launched after Mr Tudge’s former media adviser, Rachelle Miller, went public with her claim.
The pair were involved in a consensual affair in 2017 but Ms Miller alleged it became an emotional and, on one occasion, physically abusive relationship.
She accused Mr Tudge of kicking and swearing at her while they were in a hotel bed together.
Ms Miller did not participate in the inquiry because she said the terms of the investigation “forbade it from investigating any allegations which might amount to criminal conduct”.
In a written statement released soon after the Prime Minister’s statement. Mr Tudge insisted it was the second time the allegations against him had been “dismissed” – referring to other claims by Ms Miller first aired by the ABC’s Four Corners program in late 2020.
While he said he would not comment further, his statement noted that he would not seek to return to the frontbench “before the election”.
“I deeply regret the consensual affair with Ms Miller in the second half of 2017 when both of us were married with children and in our forties,” he said.
“It should never have happened and it has caused hurt to our respective families. It caused the end of my marriage that year.”
Mr Tudge has held the safe Liberal electorate of Aston, in Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs, since 2010.
He has held various ministerial roles since 2013.
Inquiry review includes caveats
Dr Thom’s report, uploaded to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s website on Friday afternoon, contained a few caveats.
“The evidence available to the Inquiry was limited by Ms Miller’s decision not to participate,” Dr Thom said.
“The Ministerial Standards do not specifically address broader integrity and conflict of interest issues that may be a consequence of relationships that do not amount to ongoing or family relationships.”
Four staff in Mr Tudge’s office provided evidence to the inquiry.
Dr Thom also noted a change to the Ministerial Standards in 2018 by then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in the wake of revelations of Barnaby Joyce’s affair with his staffer, quoting Mr Turnbull’s comments at the time that the previous standards were “truly deficient”.
“I conclude from Mr Turnbull’s comments on the amendment that a Minister engaging in sexual relations with staff would not have been considered to have breached the 2015 Standards.” She said.
“For this reason, Mr Tudge’s intimate relationship with Ms Miller was not, in itself, a breach of the 2015 Standards.”