The public sector union has described the revelation that Jamie Briggs distributed a photo of a female public servant after she had made a complaint against him as a “gross breach of privacy”.
A blurred photo of a woman with Mr Briggs’s chief of staff has been published by News Limited papers, several days after the frontbencher’s resignation.
According to News Limited, Mr Briggs said he took the photo in question and then distributed the image to colleagues before and after the complaint of “inappropriate” behaviour in a Hong Kong bar was made.
It is unclear who then leaked the photo to the media.
Information about her age, her university degree and her job title has also been published by media outlets.
Her name has not been revealed.
The assistant national secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, Michael Tull, said the public servant’s privacy had been breached.
“It’s never easy for a person who works in the public sector to raise inappropriate behaviour, especially when a politician is involved, which is why we need genuine protections for people who do make complaints,” Mr Tull said.
“One of the most important protections is the right to privacy.
“That’s clearly not happened in this case and that’s disgraceful.
“If this kind of gross breach of privacy had come from a senior departmental official, or any other public sector worker for that matter, that person would be facing serious repercussions.
“People should feel safe to raise their concerns without this kind of blowback.”
He called on department officials to contact the Special Minister of State “seeking the protection of their employee” and ensure it follows procedures that protect the privacy of the complainant.
“I’ve apologised directly”
Mr Briggs resigned as Cities Minister last week over what he described as an “error of judgement” while on an official overseas trip.
“We interacted between the three of us and with others in what I believed at the time was an informal manner,” he said.
“However, in the days following the evening, the public servant … raised concerns about the appropriateness of my behaviour towards her at the venue.
“I’ve apologised directly to her but after careful reflection about the concerns she raised and the fact that I was at a bar late at night while on an overseas visit I have concluded this behaviour has not met the particularly high standards for ministers.”
He will stay on as a Liberal backbencher for the seat of Mayo, South Australia.
Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham told reporters in Adelaide he did not know how the image was leaked to the press, but defended the Government’s handling of the issue.
“I think it’s unfortunate that the photo was leaked to the papers, but I think in terms of this issue and this incident, Jamie made a mistake, he owned up to the mistake, he’s paid a high price and it’s time we moved on,” he said.
Mr Birmingham said “extremely thorough processes were followed” once the complaint was made.
– with ABC