Australian education minister stands aside over abuse claims

Alan Tudge denies wrongdoing and promises to cooperate with independent investigation

December 2, 2021
Australian education minister Alan Tudge
Australian education minister Alan Tudge

Australian education minister Alan Tudge has stood aside from his role over allegations that he acted abusively during an extramarital affair four years ago.

Mr Tudge has acknowledged a consensual sexual relationship with a media adviser when he was minister for human services in 2017, but “completely and utterly” rejected allegations of abuse.

He has taken personal leave until Christmas and vowed to “cooperate in every way” with an independent review. Similar claims aired previously were “also considered and rejected” through an independent investigation, he said.

Skills and employment minister Stuart Robert will act as education minister during Mr Tudge’s absence.

The abuse claims have emerged amid an intense public focus on sexual misconduct by Australian parliamentarians and their staff, after allegations surfaced that a former attorney general had sexually assaulted a young woman decades ago and a male staffer was accused of raping a female colleague in a minister’s office in 2019.

A report on the culture of commonwealth parliamentary workplaces, released by sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins on 30 November, found that one-third of staff had experienced sexual harassment on the job and about 1 per cent had suffered actual or attempted sexual assault.

Mr Tudge’s affair was revealed well before he was appointed education minister last December. His interim replacement also has a tarnished past. Mr Robert was ejected from the human services ministry in 2016 after being found to have acted inconsistently with ministerial standards during a private business trip to China in 2014.

Since then, Mr Robert has been investigated by the corporate regulator over his business affairs and has been obliged to repay almost A$40,000 (£21,000) of home internet bills that had been charged to the public purse.

john.ross@timeshighereducation.com

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