Voters in Jamie Briggs’s South Australian electorate say they deserve to know exactly what happened to cause the MP to resign as a federal minister.
On Tuesday, Mr Briggs announced he was stepping down as Minister for Cities and the Built Environment because of a late-night incident involving a female public servant at a bar in Hong Kong.
He did not explain the details behind what happened in Hong Kong, but said his behaviour did not meet “the particularly high standards for ministers”.
“I’m quite shocked and wondering why, what happened?” one constituent said.
“We haven’t heard the full story, so until you hear the full story you really don’t know what he did wrong, so it doesn’t sound like much,” Lyndal Schlepes, a second constituent said.
A third voter, Joy Born, said Mr Briggs had to “come clean or resign from Parliament”.
At a press conference, Mr Briggs said: “At the conclusion of the official program for the day, my chief of staff and I went for dinner and we invited several other officials, of which one female public servant agreed to attend.”
“At the conclusion of the dinner, which I paid for personally, we went to a popular and, as it transpired, very crowded bar for drinks during which we interacted between the three of us and with others in what I believed, at the time, was an informal manner.
“However, in the days following the evening, the public servant … raised concerns about the appropriateness of my behaviour towards her at the venue.”
Mr Briggs is expected to remain in Federal Parliament as a backbencher.
University of Adelaide political analyst Clem McIntyre does not think the controversy will stop Mr Briggs holding onto the seat of Mayo at the next federal election.
“I’d be surprised if he loses that seat at the next election, but doubtless this news will change the views of some voters, but as I say, with a strong margin of over 12 per cent it’s unlikely, that he will lose the seat,” he said.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said he hoped the reasons behind Mr Briggs’ resignation did not overshadow more important issues at the next federal election.
Mr Briggs’s electorate of Mayo covers the Adelaide Hills, the Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island, and is one of the seats being targeted by the Nick Xenophon Team.
Mr Xenophon said he hoped voters would focus on the real issues at hand.
“I really hope for his sake, for his family’s sake, that this fades from people’s memories, that the election campaign is defined by issues about jobs, about education, about manufacturing, about health,” he said.
Nick Xenophon Team candidate for Mayo, Rebekha Sharkie, said she briefly worked in Jamie Briggs’ office when he became an MP in 2008.
She said she did not feel comfortable in what she described as a “boys club” culture within certain parts of the Liberal Party.
“I hope that the culture can be different in the future,” Ms Sharkie said.
“I hope that this means a change in culture in the Liberal Party away from misogynistic views.”