Underwear police minister sacked in Australia

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The Independent Online

Just three days after being sworn in, the new Police Minister of Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, was sacked today after admitting that he stripped to his underwear during a drunken late-night party in his parliamentary office in Sydney.

Witnesses said the minister, Matt Brown, dressed only in "very brief" underpants, danced to loud techno music on a green leather Chesterfield sofa, then climbed on top of a fellow Labor MP, Noreen Hay, and straddled her breasts.

Turning to Ms Hay’s adult daughter, Mr Brown allegedly called out to her that he was performing a sexual act on her mother.

The incident took place three months ago, but was leaked to the Australian media this week, apparently to embarrass the new state premier, Nathan Rees, who was propelled into the top job last week after his predecessor, Morris Iemma, was dumped by his own party. The bloodletting followed months of political infighting, scandals and poor opinion polls.

Last Sunday, Mr Rees presented a new line-up of Labor ministers, declaring that "the soap opera is over". The honeymoon lasted just 72 hours, with lurid details of the party – held to celebrate the state budget – published in The Australian newspaper.

Confronted by Mr Rees, Mr Brown denied the story. Mr Rees, however, decided to conduct his own research and made several dozen phone calls, during which "a very different picture emerged". He told Mr

Brown that "there were too many reports of you in your underwear for me to ignore", after which the minister "conceded he’d been in his underwear".

However, Mr Brown yesterday indignantly denied the claims relating to Ms Hay. And Ms Hay herself said that, although she danced with Mr Brown, nothing untoward happened, and he was fully clothed at all times. The notion that he sexually assaulted her was "just ridiculous", she added, explaining that the room was full of women who were younger and far more attractive than her.

Delivering a statement in his constituency south of Sydney, surrounded by tearful friends and family, Mr Brown said: "I’m a human being and I made a mistake, and I’m going to cop the consesquences of that mistake." He described the episode as a "gross disappointment".

It is the latest in a series of scandals to tarnish the image of Australian MPs. Last month, state Liberal leader in Western Australia, Troy Buswell resigned after admitting to sniffing a chair vacated by one female politician and twanging the bra snap of another.