Jul 6, 2021 - World

Former member of Australian parliament accuses government minister of sexual misconduct

Julia Banks sits on the cross bench for the first time after resigning from the Liberal Party at Parliament House on November 27, 2018 in Canberra, Australia.

Julia Banks, then a member of parliament, sits on the cross bench for the first time after resigning from the Liberal Party at Parliament House in 2018 in Canberra, Australia. Photo: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images

Former Australian Member of Parliament Julia Banks criticized Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday after accusing a current government minister of inappropriately touching her at Parliament House in Canberra in 2017.

Driving the news: Banks told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Monday night that she was "on a couch talking to another MP" when the unnamed minister sat down and "put his hand on my knee and ran it up my leg, on the upper part of my leg." Morrison's office said he hadn't been aware of the allegation.

Why it matters: Morrison has faced backlash in recent months for his government's management of earlier scandals, including allegations of rape in Parliament House that triggered massive protests across Australia against the sexual abuse and harassment of women.

  • Morrison said in response in April that politicians and judges in Australia would no longer be exempt from rules barring workplace sexual harassment.

The big picture: Banks told the ABC that the culture she experienced during her time with the ruling Liberal Party was like the TV show "Mad Men." She's expanded on her allegations in her new book, "Power Play: Breaking Through Bias, Barriers and Boys' Clubs."

  • Banks accused Morrison on Tuesday of being in control of "bully boys" who "hounded" her after she left the party in 2018 when former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was ousted in a leadership contest that saw Morrison become leader, per the ABC.

What they're saying: The prime minister's office released a statement to news outlets Tuesday, saying: "The Prime Minister is not aware of any allegations of sexual harassment Ms Banks faced. Any such behavior is completely inappropriate."

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