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Coalition staffer sacked over lewd act a 'good worker': Minister

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has choked back tears as he vowed to clean up Parliament House culture, soon after his Minister for Children and Families said that a Coalition staffer sacked over a lewd sex act inside an MP’s office was “a good worker and he loved the place”.

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“The young fellow concerned was a good worker and he loved the place,” Michelle Landry said this morning.

“I feel bad for him about this, but it’s unacceptable behaviour by anyone and it should not happen in workplaces like this.”

Labor senator Kristina Keneally was incredulous.

“How about feeling bad for the cleaners who had to come in and clean up after that disgusting mess?” she said.

“How about feeling bad for a female MP whose desk was disrespected?”

Industry Minister Karen Andrews says she could not accept any more unacceptable behaviour by coalition staff.

“I have had an absolute gutful and my conscience will not allow me to remain quiet,” she said.

“There are some specific instances in this building that are absolutely unacceptable. What does it say about an individual that thinks that sort of behaviour is okay?”

Channel 10 has obtained images and videos filmed inside parliament involving four coalition staff members.

Scott Morrison held a press conference later Tuesday morning at which he expressed his shock and disgust at revelations of sleazy behaviour inside Parliament House.

“I am shocked, and disgusted, it is shameful,” the prime minister told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

“We must get our house in order.”

Morrison choked back tears as he spoke about his daughters, wife and mother.

“They motivate me every day on this issue,” he said.

“And to them, I say to you girls, I will not let you down.”

Morrison’s government is under colossal pressure after former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins said she was raped by a former colleague in the Defence Minister’s Parliament House office in 2019.

That triggered a wave of revelations about harassment, assault and sexism and a national protest movement calling for more action.

“I acknowledge that there have been people who haven’t been happy with how I have responded in every single way over the course of this last month. I acknowledge that absolutely,”  Morrison said.

“I am setting about to put that right.”

Morrison’s sombre tone evaporated when he launched an extraordinary attack on a Sky News journalist after he questioned if his job should be in jeopardy over the myriad issues.

“You are free to make your criticisms and to stand on that pedestal, but be careful,” he said.

The prime minister claimed he knew about a person at the news organisation who had a complaint against them relating to harassing a woman in a toilet.

“You are not aware of it. So let’s not, all of us who sit in glass houses here, start getting into that,” he said.

Morrison will meet with all coalition staff later on Tuesday to discuss behavioural issues.

Minister for Women Marise Payne said the allegations highlighted the need for the independent inquiry into the workplace culture of Parliament House, headed by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.

“As a senator for NSW, as a minister in this government, and a human being, it’s appalling,” she said.

“The degrading nature of those actions, which were shown in the media, is beyond disappointing and reinforces the imperative of the review that the sex discrimination commissioner will carry out.”

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, whose department manages much of Parliament House, said the staffers’ conduct was revolting.

“Amongst a small number, there is clearly a disgusting and unacceptable culture, and we have to weed it out,” Birmingham said.

“One employee was dismissed last night, and if others are identified as being engaged in similar activity, they will be dismissed as well.”

Birmingham has contacted the journalist who reported the story and requested the whistleblower help the government identify the three other staffers allegedly involved.

“They’ve shown a complete disrespect for the member of parliament,” he said.

“The disrespect I’m talking about is not just a disrespect to the member of parliament, it’s a disrespect to the Australian public, it’s a disrespect to every other person they work with in this building.”

-with AAP

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