Pollie’s plea over ‘huge’ affair mistake
After confessing to an extramarital affair he describes as the biggest mistake of his life, Immigration Minister Alan Tudge has issued a mea culpa on Facebook where he pleaded with voters to forgive him.
Sending a clear signal he plans to contest the next election, Mr Tudge has issued his most comprehensive apology to date on the relationship that he confirms destroyed his 20-year relationship with his ex-wife Terri.
"All of us make mistakes in life, but some of us make bigger ones than others,'' Mr Tudge wrote at close to midnight on Saturday night.
"I made a huge one in 2017, hurt many in the process, and this week it was held up in lights nationally."
In his plea for forgiveness, Mr Tudge also chose to highlight the fact that his ex-lover, former senior press secretary Rachelle Miller, was a mother.
"My mistake was an affair with a married woman with children,'' he said.
"I was a married man. And she was my most senior media person. A minister and his or her media adviser work closely together, particularly at the national level. You are constantly on the road, travelling from one location to the other, working long hours and often under pressure."
Mr Tudge's previous comment on the national furore was previously restricted to a statement of three sentences after the Four Corners program was broadcast on Monday night.
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In that statement, he confirmed the affair, described his sexual relationship with a staff member in his office who reported directly to him as matter in his "personal life" and said he regretted his actions and the hurt it caused in his family and to Ms Miller.
But his new statement makes no mention of the bullying complaint Ms Miller has lodged with the Department of Finance or an alleged "fake redundancy" process to quietly get rid of her six months later in another minister's office.
As revealed by the ABC's Four Corners program, she confirms she entered into a consensual relationship with the Immigration Minister when he held the human services portfolio, but also felt bullied in the office and that her work performance was questioned as a result of the fallout from the affair.
She makes no claim of sexual harassment in the claim but says she did feel bullied and intimidated at times in the office.
At one point, Ms Miller told Mr Tudge that his behaviour was "not OK"; that she was stressed, anxious and sometimes reduced to tears.
"The next morning he was in the Canberra office I decided to speak up and let him know this was not appropriate behaviour and that I wanted it to stop. He replied in a very angry tone to: 'Stop being such a precious petal'. This is when I decided to seek another role," she said.
"Alan would contact me and text me at all times of the day and night and expect that I would immediately respond," she said.
In his new statement, Mr Tudge said he accepted the blame for allowing the relationship to move from a professional one to a romantic affair.
"In this situation, the error was mine and I take responsibility,'' Mr Tudge said.
"There is nothing that justifies what I did and I will regret my actions for the rest of my life." The Victorian MP also said he felt deep regret for the impact on his wife and children.
"The affair ended my 20 year relationship with my wife, a beautiful person. We separated in late 2017 but remain close. I will never be able to say sorry to her enough for the hurt I caused,'' Mr Tudge said.
"I also regret the impact the affair had on my media adviser's family and the hurt they too would have felt.
"Time heals a lot of wounds, but this week, those wounds were again reopened, three years later.
"I am sorry to put my family through this again."
Mr Tudge said he was working to become a better person after the marriage breakdown and repair his relationships.
"Over the last three years, I have done a lot of reflection, much grieving over our family breakdown, and have worked to be a better person,'' he said.
"To my community, the Knox locals who have repeatedly put their confidence in me as their representative, I have also let you down and I am sorry. But I commit to continuing to work as hard as ever on the things our local community needs to make it an even better place to live."
"Over time, I hope to regain the trust of those I know and love and those whom I represent."
Originally published as Pollie's plea over 'huge' affair mistake