The Nationals should put up a woman to replace MP Andrew Broad when he leaves parliament next year, the party's president says.
Mr Broad has decided not to re-contest his northern Victorian safe seat of Mallee, following revelations he travelled to Hong Kong and dined with a younger woman he met online, charging taxpayers for the domestic leg of the trip.
"I would like to see a Nationals woman candidate for Mallee," Nationals Party President Larry Anthony told The Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday.
Details about the meeting between the woman, named as “Amy”, and the married Mr Broad, 43, surfaced in New Idea magazine this week.
"After recent media stories about my private life, it is clear that the people of Mallee will be best served in the next parliament by a different Nationals candidate," he said in a statement on Tuesday.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said it was the right decision to step aside.
“In doing so he has accepted the sort of behaviour which has prompted his decision is inappropriate and unacceptable,” the Nationals leader said.
AAP understands Mr Broad will stay on in federal parliament representing the Nationals until the election, due in May, and won't switch to the crossbench to sit as an independent.
The woman Mr Broad met in Hong Kong told New Idea he had lied about his age, sent her numerous text messages that turned to a "more sexual nature" following the dinner, and compared himself to "James Bond".
Mr Broad on Tuesday agreed to pay back $479.62 for domestic flights between Mildura and Melbourne, on September 2 and 7, which were part of the overall trip to Hong Kong.
After recent media stories about my private life, it is clear that the people of Mallee will be best served in the next parliament by a different Nationals candidateAndrew Broad
The MP's downfall comes after he called this year for former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce to step down after his extramarital affair was revealed earlier this year.
Minister for Women Kelly O'Dwyer said Mr Broad's behaviour had falled short of community standards.
"There's no doubt that Andrew Broad has not behaved in a way that has met the standards that he himself would set for others," she told ABC radio on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Nationals deputy leader and senator Bridget McKenzie is a party potential candidate for Mr Broad's seat.
Former mayor of Yarriambiack Shire Ray Kingston has flagged his intentions to run as an independent.
Mallee is one of the safest seats in the country and is held by Mr Broad with a margin of about 20 per cent.
Deputy Leader of the National Party Senator Bridget McKenzie has said she is “deeply disappointed” by the reports regarding Andrew Broad’s behaviour.
“It is deeply concerning and not representative of my party,” she said
“Members of the public have every right to expect that the behaviour from their elected representatives is in line with community expectations and standards.
“Andrew has done the right thing by deciding to not contest the next election.
“I acknowledge Andrew’s representation for the electorate of Mallee since 2013 and my thoughts are with his family during this difficult time.
“The Nationals have represented Mallee since 1949 and we hope to continue our strong representation for the people of Mallee.”
Senator McKenzie said that Nationals were not a party where this standard of behaviour was acceptable.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has said embattled Mallee MP Andrew Broad “made the right decision” to stand aside and not re-contest the his seat in the upcoming federal election, describing his conduct as “inappropriate and unacceptable”.
Mr Broad travelled to Hong Kong and dined with a younger woman he met online, charging taxpayers for the domestic leg of the trip.
Mr Broad on Tuesday confirmed he would immediately pay back $479.62 for domestic flights between Mildura and Melbourne, September 2 and 7, involved in the trip.
“Mr Broad has been a passionate advocate for regional and farming issues representing his Victorian electorate since 2013, which led to his promotion as the Assistant Minister, in September this year,” Mr McCormack said.
“Mr Broad has now made the right decision to stand aside and not re-contest the seat of Mallee and in doing so he has accepted the sort of behaviour, which has prompted his decision, is inappropriate and unacceptable.”
Mr Broad has issued a statement to media confirming he will not contest the next Federal Election.
Deputy Nationals Leader Senator Bridget McKenzie, who has an office in Bendigo, has been contacted for comment.
Andrew Broad will not contest the next election.
The Australian has reported that Mr Broad has withdrawn his preselection for the safe Nationals seat of Mallee, which he holds by 19.8 per cent, but intends to remain in parliament until the election.
Quitting before the likely May poll would trigger a by-election, which could be disastrous for Scott Morrison, who already leads a minority government with just 73 seats on the floor of federal parliament.
Mr Broad was said to have offered to stand down ahead of the election.
Australian Labor Party candidate Lydia Senior, who stood against Mr Broad in the 2016 Federal Election, has questioned his moral and ethical standards and called for his resignation, should the allegations be true.
“He has made comments in the past, for example, on gay marriage (and) about it destroying the sanctity of marriage. What has he just done? It’s hypocritical and if he has used taxpayer funds (then) I don’t think he can stand,” she said.
“The response so far from the government is that they need to keep him to help their numbers in parliament and that is unacceptable and people see it for what it is.
“It’s not a good enough reason and I think the public will see through that. They want a representative with high ethical and moral standards.”
While Swan Hill-based Citizens Electoral Council candidate Chris Lahy was more reserved in his judgement.
“I have good relationship with Andrew and I’m keen to speak to him… to find the truth in this,” he said.
“Being in the same electorate we share some beliefs and we give each other the respect friendly adversaries do, so I’m looking forward to a discussion to get his side.”
Mr Lahy is recontesting Mallee for the CEC at next year’s election, and also said any politician using taxpayers money improperly has to be held accountable.
Deputy PM Michael McCormack has held a press conference in New South Wales.
In the press conference, Mr McCormack said Member for Mallee Andrew Broad “should consider his future” as a MP.
Fairfax Media has repeatedly called and emailed Mr Broad’s office again on Tuesday morning. An email to Mr Broad’s office posing questions from Fairfax Media readers received an out of office reply.
Update, 9:30 am:
The Age is now reporting Mr Broad billed the taxpayer for part of his travel to Hong Kong where he met a “sugar baby” at an up-market restaurant.
It’s understood the public funded Mr Broad’s trips between Mildura and Melbourne as he flew to the Asian nation in September to attend a fruit grower’s conference, about which he sent out a media release on September 12th.
Coalition sources quoted say he is willing to repay the expenses.
In other new developments, Australian Federal Police released a statement yesterday afternoon saying Mr Broad referred the matter to them on November 8th.
This appears to contradict comments made by Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack yesterday morning, that he knew about the issue for “a couple of weeks”. He clarified things last night.
"When asked today about the timing of Mr Broad’s notification to me of allegations against him in the media, I responded “a couple of weeks ago” as I thought that was approximately the timing of that call," Mr McCormack told The Age.
"At the time, Mr Broad advised me that he had contacted someone overseas for a date and went out to dinner with the individual. He said nothing more than that had happened and that he was on a personal trip to Hong Kong.
"Further, he told me the person had then made contact with him again after the dinner in circumstances I felt he should refer to the AFP, if he had not already done so. Based on the information provided to me by Mr Broad, I believed it was a matter for him and his family at that time."
The last time the Nationals were in crisis over a sex scandal, Andrew Broad reached for the words of American evangelist Billy Graham, who had died in North Carolina just hours earlier.
"When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost," the Nationals MP tweeted in February. "Telling words for the leadership of the National Party."
The words were a direct hit on Barnaby Joyce as the deputy prime minister battled to save his job amid a messy affair with staffer Vikki Campion. The public rebuke was the beginning of the end for Joyce, who was gone within days.
Nine months later, Broad's own character is up for judgment. The Nationals MP is facing allegations that go not just to character but conduct as a federal MP and member of Prime Minister Scott Morrison's ministry.
Broad is facing bombshell claims he spent time in Hong Kong wining and dining a woman who used the online alias "Sweet Sophia Rose". Both Broad and Nationals leader Michael McCormack have been unable to say whether the assistant minister was in Hong Kong in his capacity as an MP, and have still not categorically ruled out the use of taxpayer money to fund any part of the extra-curricular adventures.
According to the woman's version of events - published in the New Idea magazine on Monday and also deserving of scrutiny - they met through a "sugar daddy" dating website. Politicians are entitled to private lives, but when you present yourself to voters as a family man and insult LGBTI Australians during the same-sex marriage debate by comparing gay men to rams having sex in paddocks, Broad can hardly be surprised when some start to speculate whether he is, at the bare minimum, a hypocrite.
Among a string of cringeworthy messages alleged to have been sent over several months, Broad told the woman he was "a country boy so I know how to fly a plane, ride a horse, and f--- my woman".
In another, Broad seemingly boasted about his promotion to the frontbench following the demise of Malcolm Turnbull in August. In a text, he is claimed to have written: "I pull you close, run my strong hands down your back, softly kiss your neck and whisper 'G'day mate'."
The woman says the pair met at Hong Kong's ritzy Aqua restaurant but the encounter went no further because she didn't like his behaviour.
Broad informed McCormack of the incident weeks ago. For reasons yet to be properly explained, the Nationals leader told Broad to refer the matter to the Australian Federal Police.
What happened next? McCormack sat on the information and did nothing until the woman's claims were splashed across New Idea on Monday. Once the story became public, frantic phone calls were made and Broad resigned from the ministry before he could be pushed.
Were taxpayer funds used to entertain the woman, McCormack was asked by reporters? "That's a question you'd have to ask Andrew Broad. I don't believe so, but that's a question you'd have to ask Mr Broad," came the response.
McCormack went on to say resignation from the ministry was the "right and proper course of action" for Broad. If that is the case, why didn't the Nationals leader demand his MP's resignation weeks ago?
The Deputy Prime Minister's claim that he took "swift and decisive action" to deal with the crisis really stretches belief.
Liberal Party MPs are seething that another own-goal by their junior Coalition partner has derailed the government's agenda. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg's mid-year budget update contained what should have been good news for a government behind in the polls, but that has now been blown out of the water. The scandal has also taken any heat off Labor at its national conference in Adelaide.
This fresh crisis is the last thing a government already grappling with its treatment of women needed. The extent of the damage remains unclear and could have long-term ramifications.
Under a worst-case scenario, Broad may well be forced to quit entirely before the election. Few believe that point has been reached but if it did get that far and his crucial vote was lost, it would be close to untenable for the government to sit in Canberra before the next election.
Can we please get real for a minute?— Bevan Shields (@BevanShields) December 17, 2018
McCormack and his team would have known the first question he was going to be asked yesterday was ‘when did you know?’.
So how is it he initially replied ‘a couple of weeks ago’ when it was clearly six weeks ago? Stuff up or cover up? https://t.co/lIjIrAYdr2
- Wimmera Mail Times