He stood aside from his ministerial position despite “didn’t do anything wrong”, but he is still “technically in the cabinet”, although another guy has done his job.
He disappeared during the election campaign but appeared in a very casual sweater and asked reporters to email him questions – but both he and Prime Minister Scott Morrison insist he will be welcomed back into cabinet as the coalition on May 21 wins.
And remember: he knows nothing – NOTHING – about the half-million dollar taxpayer to his former press secretary.
If you were to give the Alan Tudge story a review on Goodreads, the main points would be: Interesting, but way too many plot holes.
So what’s Tudge’s story? Here is a brief explanation.
In November 2020, Tudge’s former staffer Rachelle Miller revealed that she and Tudge had had a secret affair while she was working for him. Tudge publicly admitted the affair and apologized to his family.
In December 2021, Miller filed formal charges that Tudge had been emotionally and physically abusive during a consensual affair. Tudge denies the allegations.
Morrison announced an independent inquiry into the allegations and Tudge stepped aside from the ministry. Stuart Robert, minister for aged care, picked up his wallet while Tudge was on personal leave. Michael Bradley gives here a very good overview of what we know about this case.
The independent investigation
During last night’s leadership debate, Morrison said of the matter: “We had an independent investigation. We have taken up the matter.”
The independent investigation found insufficient evidence that Tudge violated ministerial standards. Despite apparently finding no evidence of wrongdoing, Tudge stayed in the back seat. Strange. Further, Miller did not participate in the investigation, alleging that the government had ignored her concerns about the job description and said the investigation “smells like a political solution”.
The $500,000 payout
Last night, debate host Mark Riley Morrison posed a seemingly simple question: “Don’t taxpayers have a right to know why they paid half a million dollars in compensation to your Secretary of Education Alan Tudge’s press secretary and former lover, if he apparently did nothing wrong? ?”
Morrison replied, “This matter, I am told, is not even settled yet.”
news.com.au reported in early April that Miller would receive taxpayer-funded compensation of at least $500,000, plus legal fees. This was later confirmed by Guardian Australia† Later that week, Anne Ruston, spokeswoman for the Coalition campaign, told ABC’s Radio National that the payout was not related to the allegations of misconduct leveled by Miller, but “a separate matter.”
A SEPARATE CASE? There’s another case worth half a million dollars?!
Last night, opposition leader Anthony Albanese called for a little transparency, please, why taxpayers pay a tidy $500,000. Morrison replied that it was a matter of a personal nature – but Miller has released Morrison and the Commonwealth from confidentiality obligations towards her – meaning the government is free to share any information.
But wait, he’s still a minister!
With Tudge moving in the back seat a few months after an election, it was assumed he would just slowly disappear into the night. Indeed, it is Morrison’s words that made people think this when he said in early March: “Today [Tudge] has informed me that in the interest of his family and his own well-being and to focus on his re-election as a member of Aston, he is not seeking to return to the front seat, and I support his decision.”
However. In the very first week of the election, Morrison surprised everyone by saying that Tudge was “technically” still a member of his cabinet, and that he hoped he would return to his portfolio if the coalition were re-elected.
He reaffirmed this last night, saying that Tudge still had a “ministerial order”.
“He has not resigned as minister and has not been fired,” Morrison said. “He will be happy to come back and serve in the ministry, and I welcome that.”
By the way, where is Tudge?
As the icing on the cake of the mysterious Tudge sundae, it is rarely seen. In fact, #whereistudge was trending on Twitter for quite some time.
Rumor has it that our own correspondent Guy Rundle tried to track him down, but to no avail. It was Sky News that found him while he was campaigning with his constituents in Melbourne. When asked about the payout to Miller, Tudge said: “As the Prime Minister said, he is unaware and I am not. It is a matter for the Ministry of Finance.”
So neither the prime minister nor the minister/non-minister at the center of the matter have any idea why $500,000 was paid out – it’s just a financial matter.
However, Tudge was sure of one thing, telling Sky News: “The Prime Minister has made it clear that if we are re-elected and I am in a position to step back, I will.”