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Two Australian ministers resign over separate scandals

Two Australian government ministers have resigned, one amid allegations of bar-room misconduct, the other after his home was raided. The move could lead to a reshuffle in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's cabinet.

Jamie Briggs

Minister for Cities and the Built Environment Briggs referred to his behavious as an "error of professional judgment"

Jamie Briggs said he was resigning as Minister for Cities and the Built Environment after a female public servant had complained about his conduct in a Hong Kong bar during a recent official visit. The unnamed woman raised concerns about his inappropriate behavior towards her.

Briggs, who was promoted to the front bench by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in September 2015, declined to comment in detail about the incident but said that there was no illegal action involved.

"I've apologized directly to her but after careful reflection about the concerns she raised and the fact that I was at a bar late at night while on an overseas visit, I have concluded this behavior has not met the particularly high standards for ministers," Briggs told reporters.

Not a stranger to controversy

The daily newspaper the "Adelaide Advertiser" said it had learned that Briggs had told the woman that she had "piercing eyes," and that he put his arm around her and later kissed her on the cheek as they left the venue. Briggs, who is married and has three children, referred to the incident as an "error of professional judgment" without admitting to the actual allegations.

Mal Brough

A pending Australian Federal Police investigation into Mal Brough alleges he had illegally copied a former parliamentary speaker's diaries.

"At no point was it my intention to act inappropriately and I'm obliged to note for the record that nothing illegal has been alleged or did in fact occur."

Briggs had last caused headlines in September 2015 after he was wheeled through parliament in a wheelchair following a raucous farewell party for the

deposed Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Briggs told reporters he had twisted his ankle jogging, but it later emerged that he had been dancing on table tops in the prime minister's office.

"We were mucking around, put it that way," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) at the time.

Federal police investigation into Special Minister of State

Prime Minister Turnbull said a second minister, Mal Brough, was also standing aside due to an ongoing police investigation into his role in revelations about a political rival. Special Minister of State for Defense Materiel and Science Brough had his home raided amid allegations saying he had misled parliament and played a role in the illegal copying of diaries of a former parliamentary speaker.

"In offering to stand aside Mr Brough has done the right thing, recognizing the importance of the government maintaining an unwavering focus on jobs, economic growth and national security," Turnbull said in a statement.

Brough has denied any wrongdoing.

Consequences

Both Briggs and Brough will remain in parliament, but the loss of their portfolios paves the way for a ministerial reshuffle.

Prime Minister Turnbull is riding high in opinion polls, barely three months after taking office, with a recent Newspoll survey out showing that 61 percent of voters preferred him as prime minister, versus 17 percent for opposition Labor party leader Bill Shorten.

ss/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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