NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has stood by Liberal MP Peter Poulos, who was caught leaking NSFW images of his female colleague roughly five years ago.
The colleague was a then-Liberal staffer, now NSW Liberal MP, who had posed in explicit images for Penthouse magazine in the 1980s. The models were called Penthouse ‘pets’.
The story resurfaced on February 11, with The Daily Telegraph coming across the original email in question.
According to the publication, the email included the subject line “Treasurer’s Pet” and the message contained the lines “Enjoy” and “please clean up pdf”. Allegedly attached were grainy explicit images of the female MP. [We have chosen not to name the female MP in question.]
At this stage Poulos was a political staffer, and the image was shared in the lead up to a pre-selection battle for the seat of Hawkesbury. Eventually the female staffer was chosen to be the candidate for the seat, and she went on to win it in 2019.
Poulos has apologized to the staffer for his actions, but in the wake of the story resurfacing the NSW Premier, Dominic Perrottet has weighed into the discussion.
“He should be sorry because that is incredibly inappropriate. I spoke to Peter over the course of the weekend to remind him of his responsibilities and my highest expectations,” he said.
“People make mistakes. No one is perfect. I’ve made a number of mistakes in life. The main thing is when you do, you stand up, you take responsibility for it, you apologise. That’s what Peter has done.”
Women’s Agenda reports that Poulos has not been asked to resign and is due to continue his employment in the Upper House.
The attitude from the Premier’s office is that, as the incident occurred a few years ago, it is “water under the bridge” by all involved.
In fact, the woman in question told The Daily Telegraph that she is now “great mates” with Poulos.
“Peter called me and I told him the same thing – time to move on,” she added.
Poulos has also weighed in, saying, “I reached out to [her] and apologised. I made a regrettable mistake. She in turn has been gracious and was actually surprised that the story had resurfaced again.”
The female staffer told AAP, “This is something that’s been brought up for decades now and I wish that we would respect the opportunity to put it to bed.”
Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins shared a critical tweet regarding the scandal, which is especially poignant considering the women’s movement last year, which sought to make Parliament House in Canberra a safer place for women.
Despite the fact that the parties involved appear to have come to a truce, the lack of consequences hasn’t sat well with all.
Strathfield Women’s branch president Liana Ross wrote to the NSW Liberal Pary Women’s Council (along with other senior Liberal party officials) to express her deep disappointment, particularly in how it damages the NSW Liberal party’s reputation among female voters.
“[The female MP] is an experienced, loyal, committed, Liberal MP,” she wrote in an email, published by the Daily Telegraph.
“I also view [her] as a friend. As the President of the only urban Liberal women’s branch in NSW, I would like to categorically state that these actions by Poulos are entirely unacceptable.
“This is not going to assist us to win votes at the upcoming state election, or help us to overcome “the Liberal Party has a women problem” sentiment.”