Politics

Australian officials are having an Anthony Weiner moment

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Australian politician Jamie Briggs was forced to resign from his ministerial position after a female diplomat complained about inappropriate behavior at a Hong Kong bar.

Given his experience as the former federal communications minister, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull might want to give his colleagues a lesson about text messaging.

They need it.

Turnbull could start with the rule that says: Don’t share photos of a female diplomat who has just accused you of inappropriate behavior.

He could move on to the rule that says: Don’t write an insulting text about a person and then accidentally send it to that person, particularly if the recipient is a high-profile journalist.

These lessons come too late for former Federal Minister for Cities and the Built Environment Jamie Briggs, who was ousted from the ministry on Dec. 29 after he kissed an Australian embassy official (it's in dispute whether it was on the cheek or neck), put his arm around her and complimented her "piercing eyes" during a drunken night out in Hong Kong in November.

The young public servant made a confidential complaint about the incident, which sparked an independent investigation into Briggs’ behavior and led to his resignation after he was found to have breached "ministerial standards." 

Briggs, who has been described as a “barfly” and a “loose cannon on the grog,” is married with three children. He infamously injured his knee after trying to tackle former Prime Minister Tony Abbott at a farewell party after Abbott was kicked out of office. 

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According to Briggs’ version of events, he went to a “very crowded bar” in the Lan Kwai Fong party district with his chief of staff and the woman, who is reportedly in her twenties, during a ministerial trip.

“… [W]e interacted between the three of us and with others in what I believed, at the time, was an informal manner,” Briggs said in a statement.

“At no point was it my intention to act inappropriately. This was an error of professional judgment.”

That might have been the end of the matter, but it wasn't.  

Despite apologizing to the woman and promising “to protect her privacy,” Briggs apparently sent a photo of her taken with his cell phone to friends. Someone then leaked it to local media. 

If that wasn't bad enough, Briggs reportedly distributed the photo before and after the woman made the complaint. 

“The problem is after you're aware of the complaint and the photograph identifies who the complainant is, it could be another matter of misconduct to be brought against you because people who make complaints are entitled to confidentiality," employment lawyer Gerard Phillips explained to the Australian Financial Review.

The controversy widened when Immigration Minister Peter Dutton wrote a text message to Briggs describing a female reporter as a “mad fucking witch” after she wrote a blistering column about the Briggs scandal.

But Dutton, who has made embarrassing technological blunders in the past, accidently sent the text message to the journalist. Oops. 

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Dutton has apologized for the offensive message, but there are calls for him to be dumped from office, too. 

Just six days into the new year, Turnbull must be wishing for 2016 to be over already.