A political scandal over parliamentary culture has spread to the office of Michaelia Cash, who has been accused of sending “attacking and demeaning” messages about a female staffer.
- Rachelle Miller claims she was the victim of a “fake redundancy process” instigated to get her out of Michaelia Cash’s office
- Ms Miller is at the centre of complaints against Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge
- A 14-page workplace bullying complaint was lodged with the Department of Finance last Thursday
Rachelle Miller, who is at the centre of complaints against Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge, also claims she was the victim of a “fake redundancy process” instigated to get rid of her from Senator Cash’s office.
Ms Miller makes the claims in a 14-page workplace bullying complaint lodged with the Department of Finance and Administration last Thursday, which details allegations against Mr Tudge and Senator Cash.
The former Liberal Party staffer joined Senator Cash’s office as senior media adviser in November 2017, the day after leaving Mr Tudge’s office. At the time, Senator Cash was Employment Minister as well as Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science.
Ms Miller had been in a consensual relationship with Mr Tudge while working for him. In her complaint to the Finance Department, she alleges Mr Tudge bullied, belittled and intimidated her.
“Due to the persistent rumours across the building, during my first week in the office I confidentially let Minister Cash know that I had a relationship with Alan that was now over, and that my loyalty was with her,” Ms Miller writes in her complaint.
“She was supportive and kind. The first few months were fine and I was treated well by the Minister and the CoS (chief of staff).”
She claims the workplace was less supportive under a new chief of staff, Gisele Kapterian — who has since departed — some months later.
“Gisele said that she thought my ‘personal issues were impacting on my work performance’. I disagreed and said that it was the volume of working and clearance procedures, as well as the issues coming from having two separate departments,” Ms Miller says in her complaint.
“I felt like Gisele was gaslighting me and constantly sowing seeds of doubt in my head about my ability without citing specific examples.”
“I had not told Gisele anything about my personal life so I was confused about why she was using this against me and then suspected that Minister Cash had informed her about my relationship with Minister Tudge, however this was not raised.”
After the May 2018 Budget, when many ministers travel the country to sell the political message, Ms Miller was told she would not be travelling with the minister because Senator Cash didn’t think her attendance necessary.
“I felt like I had been set up to fail, there was no way that I could manage it from the Canberra office,” Ms Miller’s complaint reads.
“During this time the Minister was also posting text messages on the office Whatsapp group that I felt were attacking and demeaning towards myself.”
In June 2018, Ms Miller was told the office was to be restructured and that her role would be made redundant. She was told she could apply for a more junior role and that she would not meet the selection criteria for a job that was at the same level as her existing role.
“It was very clear that this was a fake redundancy process put in place to get rid of me from the office,” her complaint reads.
“There were no grounds for this, there had been no performance management process put in place nor had I received formal warnings.”
Ms Miller’s complaint says she did not make a complaint at the time “as I was afraid that it would be leaked and damage my chances of finding another job”.
She also claims that when she applied for a job in Scott Morrison’s Government after the 2019 election, her appointment, though approved by a minister, was blocked by the “Star Chamber” overseen by Liberal powerbroker Tony Nutt.
Senator Cash has disputed Ms Miller’s claims.
“The Minister strenuously rejects claims of any adverse treatment of Ms Miller by her, or her office, and strongly disputes Ms Miller’s version of events,” the minister’s spokesman said.
“At the time of her employment, between late 2017 and mid-2018, the Minister and the office understood Ms Miller’s personal circumstances which is why support, leave and flexible work arrangements were offered to her.
“Given the matter is now subject to a formal process in the Department of Finance, the Minister will not be commenting further.”