Michaelia Cash accused of sending ‘demeaning’ messages about former Alan Tudge staffer Rachelle Miller


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, 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.”

Rachelle Miller worked for Alan Tudge and Michaelia Cash during her time as a Liberal staffer.(Four Corners)

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.”



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Judge accuses Immigration Minister Alan Tudge of criminal conduct in immigration case



A Federal Court judge has labelled a Federal Cabinet Minister’s behaviour as “criminal” after he left a Hazara Afghan man languishing in an immigration detention centre despite a tribunal ordering he be granted a visa.

The scathing critique of Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge is the latest in a number of judgments on the issue from Justice Geoffrey Flick, who has also taken aim at Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s handling of visa matters in recent months.

Justice Flick said Mr Tudge had “intentionally and without lawful authority been responsible for depriving a person of his liberty”, and his “conduct exposes him to both civil and potentially criminal sanctions, not limited to a proceeding for contempt”.

The case relates to a man known as PDWL, who arrived in Australian in 2012. He applied for a temporary protection visa four years later, fearful for his safety should he be returned to Afghanistan.

The man had worked with the Afghan National Army and government, and he held serious concerns he could be targeted by the Taliban.

In December 2019, an official from the Home Affairs Department rejected the visa application on the basis he had pleaded guilty and been convicted of assault over a drunken fight with a friend over a mobile phone.

This was seen as a breach of the “character test”, which is used to measure the risk someone might present to the Australian community.

On 11 March 2020, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) overturned that decision and ordered the man be granted a visa — and that the process should be carried out quickly, given he was “understandably anxious to be reunited with his wife and children”.

The Minister immediately appealed the AAT judgment in the Federal Court, but PDWL remained in the Yongah Hill Detention Centre in Western Australia for another five days.

He was released after a judgment in the Federal Court on March 17, after Justice Michael Wigney said he had remained in detention “because the Minister did not like the Tribunal’s decision”.

In his judgment today, Justice Flick found the AAT had made an error of law in granting PDWL the visa, but he argued the Minister’s subsequent poor treatment of the man meant the visa should be granted.

“The Minister has acted unlawfully.

“In the absence of explanation, the Minister has engaged in conduct which can only be described as criminal.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Tudge told the ABC he “strongly rejects any suggestion of improper conduct”.

“The Minister is considering the reasons for the court’s decision and options for an appeal,” she said.

“Therefore, it would not be appropriate to comment further.”

Labor joined the criticism of Mr Tudge, demanding he take responsibility for his actions.

“This is this second time Alan Tudge is facing contempt of court, how many times will he be given a chance?” Opposition home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said.

“Scott Morrison needs to explain why he believes the law doesn’t apply to him or his ministers and why it seems there is one rule for his ministers and another rule for normal Australians.”



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