The Liar from the Shire Strikes Again

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Scott Morrison

A lot of leaders, at all times throughout history have been caught telling fibs. The small lies that are often trotted out under the guise of ‘Public Relations’ but which can, and sometimes do, eventually get found out. 

But Scott Morrison really takes these to a whole new level. The latest that has caught him out is the confidential ‘secret’ payout made by the Federal Government to former Liberal staffer Rachel Miller. 

Leaked letter reveals a lie 

Despite repeatedly saying that the payout has nothing to do with Education Minister (who has currently stepped aside) Alan Trudge, a letter recently leaked to media reveals that’s just not the truth. 

Education Minister Alan Tudge is named multiple times in legal correspondence exchanged between lawyers acting for his former press secretary Rachelle Miller and the Department of Finance in relation to a $500,000 settlement.

The Prime Minister recently claimed that he ‘would have been told’ if the negotiations involved a cabinet minister – but its reported that the the letter names not only Mr Trudge, but also  Attorney-General Michaelia Cash and other former Liberal staffers

Both Mr Trudge and Ms Cash have categorically denied bullying Ms Miller during her employment, although Alan Trudge has previously confirmed he had an intimate relationship with Ms Miller that did not involve sexual intercourse, although the relationship did involve the pair spending time together naked in bed. 

It’s important to note that there has been no official finding of wrongdoing by either of the two ministers, as determined by separate investigations commissioned by the Morrison government into allegations Ms Miller was bullied during her time as a Liberal staffer. 

The Prime Minister says that the issue isn’t even finalised, and insists it is a private matter between Ms Miller and the Department of Finance. For his part, Mr Trudge has publicly said he believes the matter does not involve him, because he has not been made aware that it does, even though he has been named in the letter. 

But it does seem like a game of ‘smoke and mirrors’ to pass off a half-a-million dollar payment to a former staff member who had an ‘intimate’ relationship with her boss, and who has made allegations of bullying, against a backdrop of very serious allegations of sexual assault occurring in Parliament House, which is currently before the courts, and subsequent investigations that have revelead that harassment and bullying is rife within the halls of power in Australia. 

No need for secrecy 

Furthermore, the woman at the centre of all this, Rachel Miller herself, instructed her lawyers In April to release the government from being bound by any confidentiality agreements.

Confidentiality agreements are often a hallmark of workplace settlements and, by their very nature, because they stop all parties involved from disclosing what happened, have continually allowed workplace misconduct to fester and remain shrouded in ‘secrecy’ across all industries. 

California for example, have recently passed laws which will ensure that employers can no longer insist on ‘gag orders’ unless specifically requested by the victim. The workplace review into the Parliament house and its associated workplaces culture, by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, also made note of the fact that confidentiality agreements are not conducive to transparency around important issues involved in workplace misconduct.  

But there are just so many issues here that Prime Minister Scott Morrison is not facing head on – not the least of which is another high-profile allegation of workplace misconduct. But there are also issue around ‘public money’ and whether it’s acceptable to side-step frank answers on how taxpayer funds are spent. 

Lack of transparency and accountability 

The problem is we have seen this numerous before – side-stepping, blame-shifting, untruths – from covering up holidays taken during a national crisis to international diplomatic relations. And in the information age – when people have access to more information than ever before, and are on the whole, more informed than ever before, it is not good enough that leaders continue to try to ‘pull the wool over the eyes’ of the very people who elect them in to power and pay their salaries. 

Secrecy has dominated the Morrison Government’s leadership – so perhaps it stands to reason that it has continually reneged on its long-held promise to set up an independent corruption watchdog with the power to scrutinise the spending of public money and hold politicans to account. 

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Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Spring 2022.

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