A male Liberal frontbencher has been caught attacking his own female colleague in a series of explosive, leaked text messages.
Liberal frontbencher Michael Sukkar privately badmouthed a female colleague as “indulgent and bizarre” after she wrote about the challenges of balancing work and family.
Leaked text messages obtained by 60 Minutes have confirmed the attack on Superannuation Minister Jane Hume, which Mr Sukkar has revealed he deeply regretted.
In the exchange, another person responds to Mr Sukkar’s remarks by describing Senator Hume as “mad and unhinged”.
It followed the Mother’s Day publication of a 1300-word Facebook treatise by Senator Hume in May 2018 about the difficulty of juggling politics and motherhood.
At the time of the social media post, her preselection was under threat and she was yet to enter the ministry.
After the 2018 leadership change, Prime Minister Scott Morrison used his authority to ensure she was re-endorsed.
While she “loved” her job, the divorced mother said the pressures were real in the 2018 Facebook post.
“The problem is, while I am a willing volunteer to this life on the front line, my kids are conscripts. They will always be passengers on my roller coaster,” she wrote.
“There is no such thing as superwoman. We can’t do it all. Something’s got to give.”
In response, Mr Sukkar shared the post with his factional allies, describing it as “indulgent and quite frankly bizarre”.
“I was waiting for her retirement from politics but sadly it wasn’t there!” Mr Sukkar said.
Another man in the chat group, who was not Mr Sukkar, then describes Senator Hume as “mad and unhinged”.
In a statement, Mr Sukkar apologised to Senator Hume: “They were unfair and incorrect comments that I should not have made, and I regret doing so. I apologise to Senator Hume.
“I have worked closely with Senator Hume in the last three years since both becoming Ministers in the Treasury portfolio where she has done an outstanding job.”
At the time of the Facebook post and the text messages, Mr Sukkar was one of Peter Dutton’s strongest supporters to replace Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister.
During that tussle, there were reports Senator Hume was the subject of standover tactics and had her preselection challenged.
There were also claims at the time that Senator Hume’s vote in the leadership ballot was monitored or needed to be shown to others to protect her Victorian preselection.
She ultimately signed the petition to have a leadership ballot but is not believed to have voted for Mr Dutton in the challenge in the secret ballot.
At the time, there was speculation that a man had been ordered to check her ballot in the meeting, but that he declined to do so.
“Robust conversations were had but I was not bullied and made up my own mind,” Senator Hume said at the time.
The substantive allegation in the 60 Minutes program was that Mr Sukkar knew about the use of electorate resources for factional activities and this underlined the need for a federal integrity commission.
Mr Sukkar denies those allegations.
On Sunday night, 60 Minutes aired footage of a masked Mr Sukkar being pursued in an underground car park by reporter Nick McKenzie, while declining to answer questions during the TV ambush.
Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull attacked the Morrison government’s attempts to deny a freedom of information request into a Department of Finance investigation into the interview, and said it underlined the need for an anti-corruption watchdog.
Mr Turnbull said: “When there are real concerns about misconduct, corruption, improper use of government funds, then it should be in public view.”