A former staffer to Education Minister Alan Tudge has alleged their consensual relationship was “emotionally, and on one occasion, physically, abusive”, as she called on federal parliament to quickly implement the recommendations of the Jenkins review.
Mr Tudge’s office moved immediately to deny the allegations, saying the Minister “completely and utterly” rejected Thursday’s claims from Rachelle Miller, who was previously his media adviser.
But Ms Miller has also alleged she was repeatedly ignored by the offices of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and senior minister Linda Reynolds when she tried to lodge complaints.
“I am here because the government will not listen. Despite the PM’s claims yesterday that he is willing to hear our experiences, his actions have betrayed that they are not,” Ms Miller said at a press conference in Parliament House on Thursday.
“This is entirely a men’s issue, and specifically, the men in this building. The Liberal Party doesn’t have a women problem, it has a men problem.”
Ms Miller also alleged Labor had “just as many skeletons”.
“The two major parties will work together when it comes to protecting each other,” she said.
Ms Miller shared her story of a consensual affair with Mr Tudge in a Four Corners report last year, alleging “significant power imbalances”. She claimed that she was belittled about her work in the office, and once the affair ended, that her career in politics was affected.
Following the release of Kate Jenkins’ report into sexual misconduct in parliamentary workplaces on Tuesday, Ms Miller said she wanted to tell more of her story, claiming she was too “unwell” to speak widely to media at the time of the Four Corners report.
“The appalling treatment of women that happened in the early ’90s, when I was a teenager, is still occurring every day. Remember this when you vote,” Ms Miller said.
“I am not here because I want to be, but because speaking through the media is the only way that this government will listen. All of us who have survived awful experiences in this workplace tried to reach out to seek change many times. The media has always been a last resort.”
“The Prime Minister may not hold a hose, but he does have the power.”
Ms Miller called on Scott Morrison to “hold his ministers to account for their unacceptable behaviour”.
The New Daily has contacted the PM’s office for comment. In a short statement via his office, Mr Tudge flatly denied her account.
“I completely and utterly reject Ms Miller’s version of events,” Mr Tudge said in a statement to TND.
“Ms Miller and I had a consensual affair in 2017, as both of us have publicly acknowledged. This is something I deeply regret.”
Ms Miller again stressed her relationship with Mr Tudge was consensual but “more complicated than that”. She recounted what she described as “bullying, intimidation, harassment” during long hours and work trips with Mr Tudge, which she said “completely destroyed my confidence in my own ability”.
“I was breaking down in tears regularly. I wanted to complain. I needed support. But I knew there was none. If I complained, I would get sacked. I had seen it happen,” Ms Miller said.
“I wanted to hold on to my career, I loved my job. I had worked so hard to get here. I did not want it ruined by this person’s awful behaviour.
People advised me that to be a good staffer you must take any type of abuse and not complain. What sort of culture is that?”
She also alleged Mr Tudge’s behaviour included “belittling and criticising me in front of other staff, in front of community members on electorate tours, in front of other passengers on planes”.
Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and independent MP Zali Steggall stood at the back of Ms Miller’s press conference on Thursday to show their support.
Ms Miller recounted one specific allegation from a work trip with Mr Tudge to Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, for an announcement on the cashless debit card with then-PM Malcolm Turnbull.
She claimed the pair had a long day and, after returning to the hotel bar, they “drank a lot, until very late”.
Ms Miller claimed she then woke to a phone call at 4am, and realised she was in the same bed with Mr Tudge.
“Then I felt someone kicking the side of my hip and leg as I tried to sit up in the bed. It was the minister. He was furious, telling me to ‘get the f–k out of his bed’,” she said.
“He continued to kick me until I fell off the side of the bed and ended up on the floor. I searched around in the dark for my clothes. He was yelling at me that my phone had woken him up. He needed to get more sleep.
He told me to ‘get the f–k out of his room and make sure that no one saw me’.”
Ms Miller said she “could not remember a single thing from the night before”.
“We were in the same hotel as the Prime Minister and many of his staff. Some were in that bar. Did they see us?” she said.
Ms Miller said she was not seeking revenge but wanted to changes at parliament.
“It’s about ensuring that no one else goes through this in this workplace. Its about changing a system that allowed this to happen. We should not have to fight, we have no fight left. Why is it up to the women survivors to fight for change?” she said.
“I lost my career and so much more. All we ask for is a safe workplace.”
Ms Miller did not take questions following her statement.
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