Just a day after former minister for cities and the built environment Jamie Briggs quit the Turnbull government, new details have emerged of the alleged incident involving a female public staffer in a Hong Kong bar which led to his resignation.
The incident took place in late November during a fact-finding trip to Hong Kong with plans to “inform the Australian Government’s agenda for the future of Australia’s urban areas, including discussions around innovative finance, long term strategic planning and accessible housing,” according to Briggs’ Facebook page.
It happened just shortly after Briggs posted a video on his Facebook with Victor Chan from Hong Kong transport company MTR Corporation whilst travelling from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island.
With Victor from the Hong King MTR travelling from Kowloon and Hong Kong station, an incredible value capture model pic.twitter.com/JV7aOd78S2
— Jamie Briggs (@BriggsJamie) November 27, 2015
It is believed that after dinner with his Chief of Staff, Stuart Eaton, and a female public servant reportedly in her 20s, the group headed to a bar in Hong Kong’s busy nightlife district Lan Kwai Fong.
The Australian reports that Briggs “complimented the young woman on her eyes, put his arm around her shoulders during a photograph and gave her a peck on the cheek as he left” after taking “lighthearted selfies” with the group.
“The allegation is he used words to the effect of she had piercing eyes or beautiful eyes,” a source close to Briggs said.
“He allegedly also touched her on the shoulder and kissed her on the cheek good night.”
The SMH further reports that Briggs was “intoxicated” and “overly-affectionate” while at the bar.
The female public servant in the alleged incident had affiliations with the Australian Consulate-General in Hong Kong and was tasked with note-taking in her first overseas posting. She eventually returned home while Briggs and Eaton returned to their hotel.
But the woman reportedly made a complaint to “departmental staff” on the night of the alleged incident with a note of incident filed with DFAT even reaching the desk of foreign minister Julie Bishop, according to The Australian.
And just three days later, she also directly contacted Eaton regarding the appropriateness of Briggs’ behaviour towards her during the night.
Although Briggs said that interactions between the three of them during the night were conducted in an “informal manner”, he said that he had directly apologised to the woman and described his actions as “an error of professional judgement” that had not “met the particularly high standards required of Ministers”, in a statement released yesterday.
Reactions to Briggs’ departure have been strong and varied.
His wife, Estee, stood by him following the ordeal by reposting a Christmas family photo on her Facebook page.
Very sad for my good friend Jamie. I know him as a decent, hard working and capable contributor to our cause. He has much to contribute.
— Mathias Cormann (@MathiasCormann) December 29, 2015
@BriggsJamie will be back. Cream always rises. A good man and a better bloke. Tough day for a man doing a good job.
— Ewen Jones MP (@EwenJonesMP) December 29, 2015
Meanwhile, Nationals Senator John Williams said that Briggs’ departure from the frontbench would not be a loss to the ministry.
“With Briggs leaving it means there will be no deterioration in the overall quality of the ministry, in fact it should improve,” he said.
Another Liberal, said that the “IQ quota has gone up and the talentless arrogance quota has gone down with this move”, according to the SMH.
Sydney’s Daily Telegraph lead this morning with the headline “Briggs Trouble in Little China”, carrying further details of the incident which has created some uncertainty about the future shape of Malcolm Turnbull’s cabinet as he considers his options for calling an early election in the first half of the new year.
Environment minister Greg Hunt will step in Briggs’ role with Marise Payne taking on duties as minister for defence material and science and Mathias Cormann acting as the special minister of state and the minister for defence, Turnbull announced yesterday.
Briggs, who is married to a former Liberal staff with three children, has now been moved to the backbench.