Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has apologised for sending a profane SMS about a female journalist, which he accidentally sent to the journalist herself.
Mr Dutton issued the apology on Sunday after he referred to the journalist as a “mad f***ing witch” in a message reportedly intended for resigned minister Jamie Briggs.
The mistaken recipient of the message, News Corp Sunday political editor Samantha Maiden, was reportedly the subject of Dutton’s message because of her article criticising Mr Briggs.
Mr Briggs stepped down from his role on Tuesday, after he revealed a complaint was lodged about his conduct towards a female public servant on an official trip to Hong Kong in November.
It later emerged that Mr Briggs circulated a photo of the public servant to colleagues, both before and after the complaint. A pixelated version of the photo was published on the front page of an Australian newspaper. Mr Briggs denied sending the photo to the newspaper.
In what was understood to be an attempt to show support for his colleague, Mr Dutton wrote the SMS to Mr Briggs, but instead sent it to Ms Maiden.
“Sam and I have exchanged some robust language over the years so we had a laugh after this and I apologised to her straight away, which she took in good faith,” Mr Dutton said in a statement.
“I’m expecting a tough time in her next column.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reportedly described the message as “completely inappropriate”.
But Ms Maiden said she was “not offended” by the “mobile phone malfunction”.
“I had a Liberal MP accidentally text me this morning, clearly not meant for me, describing me as a bit of a mad witch for writing this story, which I thought was spectacular,” she told Channel 9 on Sunday morning without naming Mr Dutton.
“He apologised and said he sent the text to the wrong person.
“So I think some of these MPs, they’re having a bit of a problem with their phones. They might just want to put them down.”
Revelations Mr Briggs distributed the public servant’s photo, which was published by News Corp with her face blurred, were not taken so lightly.
The Community and Public Sector Union said it was a “disgraceful” breach of the woman’s privacy, News Corp reported.
On a late night out at a Hong Kong bar, the former junior minister allegedly kissed the staffer on the cheek or the neck, and told her she had “piercing eyes”.
An investigation of the incident, which Mr Dutton was understood to be a part of, recommended Mr Briggs resign.
The events seemed to be a good omen for at least one former frontbencher.
Embattled Special Minister of State Mal Brough stood aside just minutes after Mr Briggs due to an investigation into his involvement in the Peter Slipper affair.