Update 3pm Wednesday:
It appears Mr Broad’s professional facebook page is also gone.
OPINION: Andrew Broad, it’s time to speak
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has released a statement to say he acknowledges Mr Broad’s decision to not recontest the next Federal Election. He also thanked him for his service.
“Mr Broad has been a passionate advocate for regional and farming issues representing his Victorian electorate since 2013, which led to his promotion as the Assistant Minister, in September this year,” Mr McCormack said.
“Mr Broad has now made the right decision to stand aside and not re-contest the seat of Mallee and in doing so he has accepted the sort of behaviour, which has prompted his decision, is inappropriate and unacceptable.
“Matters regarding Mallee pre-selection as always are for the Nationals’ local branches to decide and a replacement will be determined, in time.”
Rise Up Australia’s candidate for Mallee in 2016 Tim Middleton said they could be in line to pick up more votes if they field a candidate at next year’s Federal Election, following Mr Broad’s resignation over an alleged sex scandal.
“I do think some Nationals voters would possibly be inclined to leave, if you look at the latest state election in Mildura there is a trend to look elsewhere,” Mr Middleton said.
Mr Middleton also said he thought Mr Broad’s effectiveness as a local MP would be diminished in the time between now and the election.
“As a member who stood up for moral issues, he’ll be less inclined to put himself out there now.”
While we’ve heard from more residents about the saga.
Mr Broad has issued a statement to media confirming he will not contend the next Federal Election.
Andrew Broad will not contest the next election.
The Australian has reported that Mr Broad has withdrawn his preselection for the safe Nationals seat of Mallee, which he holds by 19.8 per cent, but intends to remain in parliament until the election.
Quitting before the likely May poll would trigger a by-election, which could be disastrous for Scott Morrison, who already leads a minority government with just 73 seats on the floor of federal parliament.
Mr Broad was said to have offered to stand down ahead of the election.
The Mail-Times asked people in the street for their opinions.
A Horsham man, who wanted to remain anonymous, said Mr Broad should be sacked.
“I think he should be sacked if it is true. I consider myself a Nationals voter and I would find it hard to vote for him if he has done the wrong thing. I think he would need to resign,” the man said.
A woman, who also asked to remain anonymous, said the allegations would tarnish Mr Broad’s reputation - whether they were true or not.
“I think it has tainted his reputation, whether he did it or not. He has lost a lot of respect and it’s unfortunate because he did seem like a sincere man,” she said.
Australian Labor Party candidate Lydia Senior, who stood against Mr Broad in the 2016 Federal Election, has questioned his moral and ethical standards and called for his resignation, should the allegations be true.
“He has made comments in the past, for example, on gay marriage (and) about it destroying the sanctity of marriage. What has he just done? It’s hypocritical and if he has used taxpayer funds (then) I don’t think he can stand,” she said.
“The response so far from the government is that they need to keep him to help their numbers in parliament and that is unacceptable and people see it for what it is.
“It’s not a good enough reason and I think the public will see through that. They want a representative with high ethical and moral standards.”
While Swan Hill-based Citizens Electoral Council candidate Chris Lahy was more reserved in his judgement.
“I have good relationship with Andrew and I’m keen to speak to him… to find the truth in this,” he said.
“Being in the same electorate we share some beliefs and we give each other the respect friendly adversaries do, so I’m looking forward to a discussion to get his side.”
Mr Lahy is recontesting Mallee for the CEC at next year’s election, and also said any politician using taxpayers money improperly has to be held accountable.
Mallee voters could be left without representation in Federal Parliament if MP Andrew Broad resigns from office in the wake of the "sugar baby" scandal.
Mr Broad resigned from his ministerial role assisting Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack on Monday.
Evan Ekin-Smyth of the Australian Electoral Commission reiterated this would not affect Mr Broad’s representation of the electorate.
“For that to be affected, the person in question would need to resign as the member altogether. However there have been instances in the past where a vacancy so close to a federal election remains vacant until the full event,” he said.
Michael McCormack says he didn’t inform the PM about Andrew Broad because the PM ‘has enough on his mind already’ and it was ‘a matter for Andrew to sort out with his family’.— Bevan Shields (@BevanShields) December 17, 2018
Actually, the Deputy PM thought it was much more than that because he asked Broad to go to the AFP.
Mr Ekin-Smyth said he could not recall any specific instances of this happening, and that scenario was hypothetical unless Mr Broad stood down.
The Mail-Times contacted the Speaker’s Office for comment on whether they would call a by-election so close to a general election in the event Mr Broad resigned.
Meanwhile, Mr Broad has received support from an unlikely source this morning.
Former Labor candidate Bob Scates of Murtoa ran against Mr Broad’s predecessor John Forrest in 2010 and against Emma Kealy in the state seat of Lowan in 2014
“He’s always been respectful to me, well-regarded in the community and and I think he represents all of the Mallee, not just the people who voted for him,” Mr Scates, 68, said this morning.
“I wish Andrew and his team a happy Christmas.”
Mr Scates said he was yet to decide whether to recontest the seat at next year’s election.
Deputy PM Michael McCormack has held a press conference in New South Wales.
In the press conference, Mr McCormack said Member for Mallee Andrew Broad “should consider his future” as a MP.
The Mail-Times has repeatedly called and emailed Mr Broad’s office again on Tuesday morning. An email to Mr Broad’s office posing questions from Mail-Times readers received an out of office reply.
Update, 9:30 am:
The Age is now reporting Mr Broad billed the taxpayer for part of his travel to Hong Kong where he met a “sugar baby” at an up-market restaurant.
It’s understood the public funded Mr Broad’s trips between Mildura and Melbourne as he flew to the Asian nation in September to attend a fruit grower’s conference, about which he sent out a media release on September 12th.
Coalition sources quoted say he is willing to repay the expenses.
In other new developments, Australian Federal Police released a statement yesterday afternoon saying Mr Broad referred the matter to them on November 8th.
This appears to contradict comments made by Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack yesterday morning, that he knew about the issue for “a couple of weeks”. He clarified things last night.
"When asked today about the timing of Mr Broad’s notification to me of allegations against him in the media, I responded “a couple of weeks ago” as I thought that was approximately the timing of that call," Mr McCormack told The Age.
"At the time, Mr Broad advised me that he had contacted someone overseas for a date and went out to dinner with the individual. He said nothing more than that had happened and that he was on a personal trip to Hong Kong.
"Further, he told me the person had then made contact with him again after the dinner in circumstances I felt he should refer to the AFP, if he had not already done so. Based on the information provided to me by Mr Broad, I believed it was a matter for him and his family at that time."
The last time the Nationals were in crisis over a sex scandal, Andrew Broad reached for the words of American evangelist Billy Graham, who had died in North Carolina just hours earlier.
"When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost," the Nationals MP tweeted in February. "Telling words for the leadership of the National Party."
The words were a direct hit on Barnaby Joyce as the deputy prime minister battled to save his job amid a messy affair with staffer Vikki Campion. The public rebuke was the beginning of the end for Joyce, who was gone within days.
Nine months later, Broad's own character is up for judgment. The Nationals MP is facing allegations that go not just to character but conduct as a federal MP and member of Prime Minister Scott Morrison's ministry.
Broad is facing bombshell claims he spent time in Hong Kong wining and dining a woman who used the online alias "Sweet Sophia Rose". Both Broad and Nationals leader Michael McCormack have been unable to say whether the assistant minister was in Hong Kong in his capacity as an MP, and have still not categorically ruled out the use of taxpayer money to fund any part of the extra-curricular adventures.
According to the woman's version of events - published in the New Idea magazine on Monday and also deserving of scrutiny - they met through a "sugar daddy" dating website. Politicians are entitled to private lives, but when you present yourself to voters as a family man and insult LGBTI Australians during the same-sex marriage debate by comparing gay men to rams having sex in paddocks, Broad can hardly be surprised when some start to speculate whether he is, at the bare minimum, a hypocrite.
Among a string of cringeworthy messages alleged to have been sent over several months, Broad told the woman he was "a country boy so I know how to fly a plane, ride a horse, and f--- my woman".
In another, Broad seemingly boasted about his promotion to the frontbench following the demise of Malcolm Turnbull in August. In a text, he is claimed to have written: "I pull you close, run my strong hands down your back, softly kiss your neck and whisper 'G'day mate'."
The woman says the pair met at Hong Kong's ritzy Aqua restaurant but the encounter went no further because she didn't like his behaviour.
Broad informed McCormack of the incident weeks ago. For reasons yet to be properly explained, the Nationals leader told Broad to refer the matter to the Australian Federal Police.
What happened next? McCormack sat on the information and did nothing until the woman's claims were splashed across New Idea on Monday. Once the story became public, frantic phone calls were made and Broad resigned from the ministry before he could be pushed.
Were taxpayer funds used to entertain the woman, McCormack was asked by reporters? "That's a question you'd have to ask Andrew Broad. I don't believe so, but that's a question you'd have to ask Mr Broad," came the response.
McCormack went on to say resignation from the ministry was the "right and proper course of action" for Broad. If that is the case, why didn't the Nationals leader demand his MP's resignation weeks ago?
The Deputy Prime Minister's claim that he took "swift and decisive action" to deal with the crisis really stretches belief.
Liberal Party MPs are seething that another own-goal by their junior Coalition partner has derailed the government's agenda. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg's mid-year budget update contained what should have been good news for a government behind in the polls, but that has now been blown out of the water. The scandal has also taken any heat off Labor at its national conference in Adelaide.
This fresh crisis is the last thing a government already grappling with its treatment of women needed. The extent of the damage remains unclear and could have long-term ramifications.
Under a worst-case scenario, Broad may well be forced to quit entirely before the election. Few believe that point has been reached but if it did get that far and his crucial vote was lost, it would be close to untenable for the government to sit in Canberra before the next election.
Can we please get real for a minute?— Bevan Shields (@BevanShields) December 17, 2018
McCormack and his team would have known the first question he was going to be asked yesterday was ‘when did you know?’.
So how is it he initially replied ‘a couple of weeks ago’ when it was clearly six weeks ago? Stuff up or cover up? https://t.co/lIjIrAYdr2
The Wimmera Mail-Times has posed the following questions to Mr Broad’s office:
1. How do you respond to the allegations leveled against you?
2. What do you have to say to the people of your electorate?
3. Do you still plan on representing the seat of Mallee into the next federal election?
4. How do you respond to allegations of hypocrisy following the views you displayed in both the same-sex marriage debate and the Barnaby Joyce scandal?
What would you like to ask Mr Broad? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions.
The Wimmera Mail-Times has contacted Mr Broad’s office again for comment, however has not received a response.
The Australian Electoral Commission has also been contacted for comment.
Mr Broad was elected as Member for Mallee in 2014, continuing the Nationals’ uninterrupted 64-year hold on the seat.
At the age of 22 he bought his first farm in Bridgewater on Loddon.
During the six years after he graduated from VCE, at the age of 18, Mr Broad studied farming, worked as a shearer, volunteered with the Salvation Army and played guitar in a band called Allergic Reaction.
He was playing guitar at a camp in Marysville on February 8, 1997, when he met his future wife Rachel, who is originally from Donald. She was studying occupational therapy at Charles Sturt University in Albury-Wodonga.
By 2005, Mr Broad had purchased another farming property, joined the Victorian Farmers Federation, started share farming and developed an interest in canola production. His businesses were financially secure despite the challenging weather conditions.
Not long afterwards, Mr Broad was awarded a Nuffield Australia Farming Scholarship. From 2009 to 2012, Mr Broad was president of the Victorian Farmers Federation.
In October Mr Broad spoke to the Wimmera Mail-Times following backlash against a federal law that allowed religious schools to discriminate on the grounds of a student or teacher’s sexuality.
“The Australian government decided it would do an inquiry into maintaining freedoms and included in that is religious freedoms. We will be handing down a report soon with our government response to that,” Mr Broad said at the time.
Mr Broad said it was important that all freedoms were upheld.
“There are two freedoms that are important. The first is that a person should be able to go to work and not be judged on their race, religion or sexuality, but be judged on the way they act in the workplace. The other freedom is that parents should be able to raise their own children in the way they see fit,” he said.
Mr Broad said parents had the choice to send their children to schools that upheld their own values.
“I have the capacity as a member of parliament to sack someone who is a raving Communist who has Communist sympathies and doesn’t the values that I want to uphold in my workplace,” he said.
“Just as a Christian school can also, currently under law, not employ someone if they are not acting within the values that the school upholds based on their workplace performance.
“But say for example they were really wanting to push a same-sex agenda within their school and it was a Lutheran school, the school does have the right to be able to dismiss them.
“The people who choose to send their children to that school have the right to decide if that school upholds the values that they want for their children’s education. That exists under current law now.”
Mr Broad voted in favour of legalisisg same-sex marriage following the results of last year’s postal survey, despite it going against his own personal beliefs.
Mr Broad was criticised in 2016 for explaining his personal opposition to same-sex marriage by using the example of two rams in a paddock.
"Do I support calling a relationship between a man and a man, and a woman and a woman marriage? No I don't," Mr Broad said in February.
"I think a bicycle is not a tricycle and relationships have different names. I can put the rams in the paddock and they might mount one another but no lambs will come out."
Following the results of the survey, Mr Broad said he had promised Mallee residents that he would vote in line with their views on marriage. In the plebiscite, 54.5 per cent of residents were in favour of same-sex marriage.
“Therefore, I feel duty-bound to vote 'yes',” he said at the time.
However, Mr Broad said children should be raised by both a man and a woman.
“There is still value in retaining marriage as the covenant for a bond between a man and a woman to raise children,” he said.
”I do not cast judgement upon same-sex couples that are currently raising children. I'm sure your love is deep and enduring, and I wish nothing but the best for you.
“But I believe there is an essential truth that cannot be replicated without the influence of both a man and a woman in a child's development.
“A young girl between the ages of zero and five craves the nurturing abilities and closeness of her mother, and between the ages of five and 10 the positive influence of her dad is essential.”
Mr Broad said while he commended single parents who have raised amazing, well-balance children, nothing replaced the ideal of marriage between and man and a woman.
“Ultimately, I believe changing the definition of marriage from a union of a man and a woman to the union of two people both weakens this ideal and weakens our society,” he said.
“I will personally find fulfilling my duty to the people of Mallee by voting yes difficult, as I believe this change will rob the future children of Australia for generations to come, but I will fulfil my duty.”
Asked to respond to Mr Broad's announcement, Labor treasury spokesman Chris Bowen said: "His resignation does not help the chaos and dysfunction at the heart of the government."
Mr McCormack said that he learned of the matter two weeks ago and urged Mr Broad to go to the AFP, but he did not answer a question directly about whether he was concerned about the MP’s conduct.
“I urged him to go to the AFP. The AFP is investigating it. The fact is they’re very diligent, they’re very earnest and they will uncover, if there has been impropriety done, they will uncover that,” Mr McCormack said.
“Mr Broad has made the right decision this morning when I accepted his resignation.
“I want to make sure that all of my ministers, all of my members are doing the right thing.
“The National Party stands for better regional services. We do what is right for regional Australia and these sorts of things, they take away from the good message that we are selling.
“We have been a very good government.”
Mr McCormack would not say more about the matter on the grounds that it was being investigated by police.
“The fact is it was a matter for the AFP, the fact is we don’t want to distract in any way, shape or form from what we’re saying and doing as a government.
“Andrew has taken the right step to resign this morning. I have accepted that resignation. That is the right and proper course of action.”
Mr McCormack said the government had a “very good story” with the latest figures in the mid-year budget update, with low unemployment and lower taxes, and did not need the “distraction” from the story about Mr Broad.
He also said he had acted quickly on strong criticisms of a Nationals adviser had been put on “indefinite leave” after sending vile text messages to a journalist after she reported on moves against Nationals Senator Barry O’Sullivan.
“The fact is, over the past 24 hours, we’ve had a couple of things which have been very unfortunate and I’ve acted decisively and swiftly to make sure the appropriate course of action was taken,” he said.
Mr Broad was the first Coalition MP to call for former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce to resign in February after details of an affair with staffer Vikki Campion became public.
He spoke to the Wimmera Mail-Times earlier this year in the wake of the saga.
“In doing that, it serves them best if I don't give commentary on other people's private lives,” he said at the time.
“In regards to the leadership of the National Party, those things are always discussed in the party room.
“What a lot of MPs have been doing this week is going out and talking to people in their community, and then they'll bring that feedback back.
“And you know what the feedback is? Just get on with the job. Just get on with the job of delivering schools, roads, hospitals, mobile phone towers.
“Shut up Canberra press gallery, and get on with the job.”
The Wimmera Mail-Times has contacted Mr Broad and his media adviser for comment, however has not received a response.
It has also contacted the Mallee branch of the Australian Electoral Commission for comment.
MEMBER for Mallee Andrew Broad has resigned from the front bench in the wake of an alleged sex scandal.
The Age has reported claims Mr Broad met a ‘sugar baby’ in overseas hotels on a trip funded by taxpayers.
Mr Broad has been named in a New Idea magazine feature that says he spent time in Hong Kong with a “blonde beauty” who used the online alias “Sweet Sophia Rose” on a website to connect young women with wealthier older men.
The claims are now the subject of a referral to the Australian Federal Police.
“I have been advised that the person making the allegation may have engaged in criminal activity,” Mr Broad told New Idea.
“This matter has been reported to the Australian Federal Police and I will not be making any further comment.”
Mr Broad was the assistant minister to Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Michael McCormack.
Mr Broad did not respond to The Age’s requests for comment.
Mr McCormack thanked Mr Broad for his service to the Ministry, following his appointment in September this year.
Mr McCormack said that “due to the nature of the allegations made, it is appropriate for Mr Broad to resign” but he declined to make any further comment on the grounds that the matters were subject to future investigation.
He said Mr Broad would “continue as an effective and hardworking Member for Mallee”.
More to come.