Cabinet backbencher Alan Tudge has made his first public comments of the 2022 election campaign, declaring he hoped to return to the education portfolio if he is “in a position to step up”.
He has also denied for the first time he tried to persuade his former staffer, Rachelle Miller, not to declare the pair had been in a personal relationship when she was renewing her top-secret security clearance in March 2018.
Alan Tudge has made a media appearance for the first time during the election campaign.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
Tudge has been stood aside from the ministry since December 2021 when Miller accused him of being emotionally abusive and, at one point, physically abusive. The MP has denied the claims and two inquiries have not made findings against him. The second inquiry by former inspector-general of intelligence Vivienne Thom concluded there was insufficient evidence to support a finding.
Tudge has been completely absent from the national campaign during the 2022 election and instead focused on his seat of Aston, which he holds with a 10.1 per cent margin, while refusing interviews and requests for policy debates.
But Tudge, who Morrison has confirmed remains in the cabinet despite sitting on the backbench, was questioned by Sky News on Tuesday about whether the Department of Finance was close to finalising a reported $500,000 settlement with Miller, who brought a workplace compensation claim, and the reason for the settlement.
“As the Prime Minister said, he’s unaware, I’m unaware, it’s a matter for the Department of Finance,” Tudge said.
“I’m not aware of any of those things. I have no information. I haven’t been called as a witness. I haven’t been asked to provide evidence. And as the prime minister said, if it involved me, he would have been made aware and hasn’t been made aware.”
Asked about a report by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald that revealed text messages in which Tudge questioned Miller why she was revealing their relationship to a national security vetting agency, in line with requirements of the agency, the MP denied he had done so.
“Well, I didn’t do that. I just asked her to tell the truth.”
The Victorian MP said he had been “very busy in my local electorate here. You can see from my social media, [that] I stood down from being education minister some months ago now for family, for health reasons, and concentrated on my electorate and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing”.
“The prime minister has made clear that should we be re-elected, and I’m in a position to step back up, then I’ll do so.”
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