The West Australian

Second Labor MP office drama

Labor MP probed over office allegation­s

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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.”

 ?? Picture: Steve Ferrier ?? MP Matthew Hughes.
Picture: Steve Ferrier MP Matthew Hughes.

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