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Government's new sex scandal as minister's ex-lover alleges physical abuse

Politics

A former staffer claims her relationship with cabinet minister Alan Tudge was emotionally and, on one occasion, physically abusive in a new recount of their affair.

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Rachelle Miller, Tudge’s former press secretary, made their consensual relationship public a year ago but went further on Thursday in a plea for change to workplace culture in Parliament House.

The accusations came as the government responds to the Jenkins report into sexual harassment in Parliament House, and the day after former Attorney-General Christian Porter, investigated over historical rape allegations, announced his plan to leave politics.

Miller said the minister repeatedly chastised, bullied and belittled her, outlining methods of coercive control.

On one occasion, she alleges Tudge kicked her until she left his bed after her phone rang early one morning and he became frustrated it woke him.

The minister has denied the claims.

“I completely and utterly reject Ms Miller’s version of events,” Tudge said in a statement on Thursday.

“Ms Miller and I had a consensual affair in 2017 as both of us have publicly acknowledged. This is something I deeply regret.”

Miller acknowledged her relationship was consensual but said it was much more complicated than that.

“I was so ashamed, so humiliated, so scared. I was exhausted. I told a small part of the story,” she told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

Miller said speaking through the media was the only way the government would listen to calls for changes to parliament’s workplace culture.

“All of us who have survived awful experiences in this workplace tried to reach out and seek change many, many times before we went to the media.”

Miller said no one from the government, aside from one female chief of staff sending a text, contacted her to see if she was OK after she went public more than a year ago.

Her repeated pleas for meetings with the prime minister and ministers, including Linda Reynolds, fell on deaf ears, she said.

“When I spoke out more than a year ago on Four Corners I wanted to spark a debate, but I was too unwell to continue to publicly advocate,” she said.

“All I ever wanted was for the government to listen and to acknowledge our experiences in this building.”

Miller said the government had delegated the job of listening to the awful experiences of women in parliament and politics.

“This is entirely a men’s issue, and specifically the men in (parliament).

“The Liberal party doesn’t have a women problem, it has a men problem.”

Miller also chastised Labor for staying silent on the issue “because they have just as many skeletons”.

“The Jenkins review (into parliament’s culture) showed the perpetrators are mostly male parliamentarians with immense power over their junior victims.

“Unfortunately, it’s a sad reality that the perpetrators are the ones who must change the laws to make themselves accountable.”

Miller called on the prime minister to take action and hold parliamentarians who perpetrate “awful, unacceptable behaviour” to account instead of promoting them multiple times, as was the case with Tudge.

“Why is it up to the women survivors to fight for change?

“We should not have to fight. We have no fight left.”

Liberal senators Jane Hume and Hollie Hughes threw their support behind Tudge, saying he should not resign because the original allegations were not substantiated by a finance department investigation.

Senator Hughes described the claims as a case of “he said, she said” and questioned what Miller wanted the government to do.

Senator Hume said significant changes had been made already.

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