The West Australian
Second Labor MP office drama
Labor MP probed over office allegations
Three women have come forward to accuse a Labor MP of bullying them while they worked in his electorate office. Kalamunda MP Matthew Hughes has denied the allegations.
It comes after Deputy
Premier Roger Cook was forced to deny claims of a toxic office environment.
The Department of Premier and Cabinet has held talks with a Labor backbencher about bullying allegations after a formal complaint by a female former staffer.
Two other women also claim they quit their posts with Kalamunda MP Matthew Hughes because of his alleged behaviour.
Janelle Sewell, left, now a Kalamunda councillor, claims she was left in a “very dark place” after nearly 21⁄2 years as a research officer for Mr Hughes.
Emboldened by the reports about the treatment of women in Federal politics, she fired off a letter to WA Labor State secretary Tim Picton, writing: “I believe it is in the best interest of the party to have this matter addressed so the member’s behaviour does not bring the party into further disrepute.”
Though Ms Sewell does not allege any sexual misconduct against Mr Hughes, she alleged she was “subjected to verbal aggression and workplace bullying that included him undermining my work and humiliation”.
“Whatever I did it wasn’t good enough,” she said.
“He disrespected me, laughed and scoffed and said I didn’t know what I was doing even in front of others.”
Mr Hughes has flatly denied the allegations about his behaviour.
A State Government spokesman said the matters raised had been discussed with Mr Hughes.
“The Department takes any complaints by staff very seriously, and has processes in place to manage these based on the individual circumstances.” he said.
The allegations made against Mr Hughes come after Deputy Premier Roger Cook faced claims from a former staff member of a toxic environment in his electorate office — something he strongly denies.
Liberal leader Zak Kirkup said at the weekend that if he was re-elected on Saturday he would he would call for a review of the WA Government’s Ministerial
Code of Conduct, saying there needed to be more respect between ministers and their staff.
Another former staffer for Mr Hughes, Sally Spalding, below right, left her job as a research and media officer after just five months.
“I was completely undermined from the moment I started,” Ms Spalding alleged.
“There were repeated displays of poor behaviour along with denigrating my skills and academic achievements.
“It seemed to me that he wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say and would put his hand up to my face to shut me up.
“For three months he didn’t talk to me.
Ms Spalding said it was one of the most “toxic” workplaces she had worked in.
Ms Spalding’s story is similar to Meg Travers, who left her research position after her probation period ended, alleging it was due to Mr Hughes’ behaviour.
“I dreaded going into the office and would look forward to the days he was in Parliament,” she said. “He would explode if I didn’t do things the way he thought they should be done even for something as simple as not putting correspondence on his preferred letterhead,” she said.
Ms Travers said she never made a complaint fearing she was the problem or she was overreacting.
Mr Hughes has denied the allegations. “As a member of Parliament, and a former school principal with decades of experience, I have always taken pride in how I conduct myself personally and professionally,” he said.
“An electorate office can often be a high pressure work environment for many reasons, but I always ensure staff are treated respectfully.
“I’m sorry to hear of the allegations raised. I deny accusations of bullying, misogyny or intimidation.”