SYDNEY (Reuters) – An Australian government minister will step down from cabinet after an inquiry into abuse allegations against him by a staffer cleared him of misconduct, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday.
The inquiry’s findings come after Australia’s parliament began the year with an apology by political leaders to staff who had suffered abuse, bullying and harassment in parliamentary workplaces.
Two prominent female activists against sexual abuse responded to Morrison’s apology in a speech the next day saying action was needed and not words.
Education minister Alan Tudge, who had stood aside during the investigation, had chosen not to return to cabinet, Morrison said. Tudge will recontest the election, expected in May.
The inquiry into his conduct towards former media advisor Rachelle Miller found there was insufficient evidence to support a finding that he bullied, harassed or was physically abusive to Miller, but noted evidence was limited by Miller’s decision not to participate in the probe.
Miller said in a statement in January she considered the inquiry was being rushed as a “political fix” and was designed to portray the government in a positive light.
“Dr Thom found that ‘the evidence considered in this Inquiry does not provide a basis for a finding that Mr Tudge’s conduct breached the Ministerial Standards’. I have accepted her advice,” Morrison said in a statement, referring to investigator Dr Vivienne Thom.
Morrison struggled last year to placate public anger amid several allegations of sexual abuse, discrimination against women and misconduct in parliament.
(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)