Labor’s Kristina Keneally was left “without words” after a government MP said she had sympathy for the Liberal staffer sacked after allegedly committing an obscene sex act on the desk of a female politician.
Reaction has been swift to the vile allegations aired on Channel 10 on Monday night, with finance minister Simon Birmingham admitting there was a “cultural problem” inside politics, and Coalition minister Karen Andrews saying she has had a “gutful” of mounting sexual assault and misconduct allegations.
But it was little-known Nationals backbencher Michelle Landry who stoked controversy early on Tuesday, after praising the man who allegedly committed an act of self-pleasure on the desk of his boss.
“The young fellow concerned was a really good worker and he loved the place. I feel bad for him about this, but it’s unacceptable behaviour,” Ms Landry, the assistant minister for children and assistant minister for Northern Australia, said outside Parliament.
— Tegan George (@tegangeorge) March 22, 2021
Moments later, Labor senator Kristina Keneally was giving a press conference of her own in the halls of the Parliament House press gallery.
She was asked about Ms Landry’s comments, but said she had not heard them, and a journalist read out a transcript to her.
“She said she feels bad for him because he loved working here? That’s what Michelle Landry said?” a stunned Senator Keneally answered.
“How about feeling bad for the cleaners who had to come in and clean after that disgusting mess? How about feeling bad for the female MP whose desk was disrespected. I am left without words that this is the response from Michelle Landry.”
Labor’s Kristina Keneally was just informed by journalists, mid-presser, about comments from Nationals MP Michelle Landry that she was “absolutely horrified” by the Channel 10 report but she she “feels bad for” the man sacked
— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) March 22, 2021
On ABC’s Radio National, Senator Birmingham – whose finance department has oversight of parliamentary staff – flagged that the government was looking at whether to institute further mandatory cultural training for staff inside Parliament.
Responding to that suggestion, Senator Keneally said “how do you train someone not to masturbate on an MP’s desk? How do you train someone not to rape?”
She also demanded the government urgently open an investigation into the reports, including that Coalition staffers had procured sex workers and brought them to the building “for the pleasure of Coalition MPs”.
Ms Andrews, the minister for science and industry, said she was disgusted by the “unacceptable” revelations on Channel 10, about staff employed by her own Coalition party.
“I have had an absolute gutful. My conscience will not allow me to remain quiet,” she said at her own press conference.
“What does it say about an individual that thinks that sort of behaviour is OK? What does it say about a group of people, seems to be men, who have passed around those sorts of photographs?”
Ms Andrews said she welcomed the decision to sack one staffer immediately, but on the other three men reportedly involved in the secret Facebook Messenger group which shared the photos, she said “it’s time for you to leave the building”.
“We need to fix these issues here. I will not remain silent,” she said.
A number of Labor and Greens party staffers held a ‘strike’ inside the Parliament House prayer room on Tuesday morning, with the Channel 10 report “the last straw” for many after weeks of escalating misconduct and safety scandals. That room, according to the repoirt, is a location that MPs and staff have used for sex on Parliament premises.
More to come.