Australian minister backtracks over 'mad witch' text to journalist

Immigration minister Peter Dutton meant to send message about Samantha Maiden to ex-colleague Jamie Briggs, but instead sent it to the journalist herself

Peter Dutton MP (dingram_kiwi/Flickr)
Peter Dutton MP (dingram_kiwi/Flickr)

Australia’s immigration minister Peter Dutton has swiftly apologised to Sunday Telegraph editor Samantha Maiden for mistakenly sending her a text message in which he called her "a mad f*cking witch".

Dutton meant to send the message to Jamie Briggs, the former minister who resigned last week over alleged inappropriate conduct towards a female staffer while on business in Hong Kong.

Maiden (pictured) reported on the incident on Sunday.

In a statement, Dutton said he apologised to Maiden "straight away, which she took in good faith".

"Sam and I have exchanged some robust language over the years so we had a laugh after this. I’m expecting a tough time in her next column."

Other politicians have publicly criticised Dutton. Penny Wong, acting leader of the opposition Labour party, said the comments were "pretty boorish" and demanded that prime minister Malcolm Turnbull take action.

Turnbull has not yet commented on the matter.

However, Maiden herself said she accepted Dutton’s apology and hopes he is not demoted.

Speaking on the Nine Network on Monday morning, Maiden said: "Dutton is a good minister, he’s a hard worker, he’s made a strong contribution to the government."

She added that the incident should not detract from the greater scandal surrounding Briggs, who distributed a photo to colleagues of the female staffer that complained against him.

That photo was then printed in pixelated form in The Australian newspaper, triggering huge consternation over privacy issues. 

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