A Federal Government minister has apologised for “inappropriate” actions towards a female Defence officer, admitting he “behaved like an idiot” while on a military exchange program in Darwin.
Queensland Liberal Scott Buchholz has told the ABC he offered an apology to the RAAF member immediately after she lodged a formal complaint about his conduct.
“I behaved like an idiot on a parliamentary exchange last year and I recognise how inappropriate my actions were,” Mr Buchholz said.
“I apologised for my conduct and the offence I caused, and I reiterate my deep respect for the ADF and its members.”
The incident occurred in August 2018 when Mr Buchholz was a backbencher, but just weeks before newly installed Prime Minister Scott Morrison promoted him to Assistant Roads and Transport Minister.
In a statement the Defence Department declined to detail the inappropriate actions that prompted the female officer’s complaint, but said the incident was “referred to the Office of the Minister for Defence Personnel”.
“Defence subsequently received an apology from the parliamentarian and is satisfied with the response,” a Defence spokesman told the ABC.
During the exchange program Mr Buchholz and his fellow federal MPs angered some in Defence after they skipped scheduled “Exercise Pitch Black” events to attend the Darwin Cup races.
One of those MPs, Liberal Ian Goodenough, has defended the group’s actions while taking part in the taxpayer-funded program.
“I was advised that the Darwin Cup is a major event in the Northern Territory,” Mr Goodenough told the ABC.
“Local Labor MP Luke Gosling had arranged leave from the ADF Program to attend the event for a few hours during the afternoon in consultation with the ADF officials.
“Our ADF liaison officer stated that the program schedule would be modified slightly to accommodate the event.”