MINISTERS Jamie Briggs and Mal Brough have announced they are quitting the Turnbull Government frontbench in the space of an hour.
Mr Briggs announced his resignation in Adelaide over a late-night incident involving a female public servant in a Hong Kong bar during an official visit last month.
In a shock move, Mr Turnbull announced shortly afterwards that Mr Brough had agreed to stand down as Special Minister of State and Minister for Defence Materiel and Science pending the completion of a police investigation.
Mr Brough has come under fire after federal police executed a search warrant at his home over the James Ashby affair.
The departure of the two MPs will trigger a Cabinet shuffle, but Mr Turnbull’s statement did not say when this would occur.
The Prime Minister is expected to face pressure to increase the number of National MPs in Cabinet, following the failed defection of Liberal MP Ian Macfarlane to the National Party earlier this month.
Revealing his resignation, Mr Briggs said his behaviour had not met the “particularly high standards required of ministers”.
The Advertiser understands the allegations raised by the female public servant involve three different acts by Mr Briggs, who was at the bar with her and his chief-of-staff Stuart Eaton.
It is understood Mr Briggs told her she had piercing eyes, then later put his arm around her. As the trio was leaving, Mr Briggs gave the female public servant a kiss on the cheek.
It is understood the public servant raised the issue within her department three days later, then sent a formal complaint email several days after that
It is also understood that no further action on the complaint will be taken, following Mr Briggs’ resignation.
Mr Briggs today confirmed the public servant had raised concerns about “the appropriateness of my behaviour towards her at the venue”.
Nothing illegal has been alleged or occurred, he said in a statement, saying it was at no point his intention to act inappropriately.
Mr Briggs said the incident was an error of professional judgment and, therefore, the proper course was to resign.
He said the incident happened after a dinner with his chief-of-staff, to which several other officials were invited and one female public servant agreed to attend.
“At the conclusion of the dinner (which I paid for personally) we went to a popular and as it transpired very crowded bar for drinks during which we interacted between the three of us and with others in what I believed, at the time, was an informal manner,” Mr Briggs says in the statement.
“At the conclusion of the evening, the public servant left to return home and my Chief of Staff and I returned to our hotel together.
“At no point was it my intention to act inappropriately and I’m obliged to note for the record that nothing illegal has been alleged or did in fact occur.”
Mr Briggs had just finished his media conference when Mr Turnbull announced he had spoken to Mr Brough about standing aside.
It comes after weeks of lobbying by the Opposition for Mr Brough to quit or be fired,
Mr Brough has faced intense scrutiny by the Opposition ever since it was revealed his home was raided by federal police looking for documents obtaining to the diary affair.
The saga intensified last month when Mr Brough gave an answer to a question in Parliament that appeared to contradict a previous answer giving to television program 60 Minutes.
In the face of strong lobbying by the Opposition, the Prime Minister stood by Mr Brough, claiming he enjoyed his confidence.
But in a statement released on Tuesday, Mr Turnbull said Mr Brough had agreed to step aside.
It follows weeks of claims by the Prime Minister in Parliament that the Special Minister of State would stay put until after the police investigation was complete unless new information came to light.
“The Hon Mal Brough MP and I have agreed that he will stand aside as Special Minister of State and Minister for Defence Materiel and Science pending the completion of inquiries by the police,” the statement said.
“The Minister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann, will act as the Special Minister of State, and the Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, will act as Minister for Defence Materiel and Science.
“In offering to stand aside Mr Brough has done the right thing, recognising the importance of the Government maintaining an unwavering focus on jobs, economic growth and national security.”
Mr Briggs said he had spoken with Mr Turnbull and he had been told he had not met his “expected standards of ministerial conduct”.
Mr Briggs told a media conference he was sorry his ministerial staff would lose their jobs as a result of his behaviour.
Mr Briggs, a married father of three, said he had apologised directly to the public servant involved and would not name her to protect her privacy, at her request.
He also apologised to all members of the Government and to the wider community “for my actions which have given me cause to consider aspects of my behaviour which I will address”.
“I will be working hard in my electorate to ensure the re-election of the Government,” said Mr Briggs.
“I have made an error of professional judgment and I am taking, I think, the appropriate course of action,” he said.
“There was offence taken by this public servant after the event. They were raised with me and I have apologised to her.”
A strong supporter of former prime minister Tony Abbott, Mr Briggs was handed the Cities and Built Environment portfolio by Mr Turnbull in September.
He previously was the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development.
Mr Briggs ended up on crutches with an injured leg after a boisterous late-night party in Mr Abbott’s office on the night he was deposed.
He repeatedly insisted he damaged his ACL while jogging the following morning and was not involved with dancing in Mr Abbott’s office which damaged an expensive marble table.
Mr Briggs is married to Estee Fiebiger Briggs, a former staffer to former prime minister John Howard.
STATEMENT BY JAMIE BRIGGS
“I have today written to the Governor General tendering my resignation as Minister for Cities and the Built Environment with immediate effect.
My decision has been made after careful reflection about certain matters that occurred during an official visit to Hong Kong in late November of this year.
At the conclusion of the official programme for the day, my Chief of Staff and I went for dinner and we invited several other officials of which one female public servant agreed to attend. At the conclusion of the dinner (which I paid for personally) we went to a popular and as it transpired very crowded bar for drinks during which we interacted between the three of us and with others in what I believed, at the time, was an informal manner. At the conclusion of the evening, the public servant left to return home and my Chief of Staff and I returned to our hotel together.
At no point was it my intention to act inappropriately and I’m obliged to note for the record that nothing illegal has been alleged or did in fact occur.
However, in the days following the evening the public servant raised a concern about the appropriateness of my behaviour towards her at the venue.
I have apologised directly to her but after careful reflection about the concerns she raised and the fact that I was at a bar, late at night while on an overseas visit, I have concluded that this behaviour has not met the particularly high standards required of Ministers. Therefore the proper course for me is to resign. This was an error of professional judgement.
In doing so I apologise again to the public servant involved (who I have not named to protect her privacy and at her request) to you and to all members of the Government and to the wider community for my actions which have given me cause to consider aspects of my behaviour which I will address.
I will be working hard in my electorate to ensure the re-election of the Government.”
How many more liabilities are lurking in this unelected pretend government, that has no democratic credibility, no political mandate, no proven performance or experience, and owes everything to naïve bedwetting political weakness in following a traitorous narcissistic dream?
Originally published as Briggs, Brough quit Turnbull ministry