SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia's troubled ruling Liberal party faced claims of intimidation and bullying Tuesday (Sept 4) with one senior minister saying she was "disgusted" by suggestions that women making the allegations should "toughen up".
The government has faced a fortnight of turmoil with moderate Malcolm Turnbull deposed as prime minister in a bitter party coup instigated by a hardline conservative faction.
Several high-profile women say they were bullied and threatened during the battle to sway their vote.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton launched the leadership challenge, but ultimately failed to win the top job, with the more mainstream conservative Scott Morrison selected as the new prime minister instead.
In the wake of the chaos, Liberal MP Julia Banks announced she would not run for parliament again at national elections next year, citing a toxic culture within parliament highlighted by intimidation during the leadership battle.
And senator Lucy Gichuhi threatened on Monday to name and shame the offenders under parliamentary privilege.
"I had senators and ministers in tears, that's how bad it was," Gichuhi told ABC radio, adding that bullying was not isolated to recent events, but was "a culture. This is a systematic kind of issue".
No specific examples were given, but Minister for Women Kelly O'Dwyer added further weight to the claims, saying she had spoken to both male and female MPs and "it is clear to me that people were subject to threats and intimidation and bullying".
"I certainly don't think at any level we can accept intimidation or bullying in any workplace and that includes the Australian parliament," she said, while backing Gichuhi's assertion that it was not an isolated issue.
"I know from my discussions with the prime minister, he is going to make it very clear in the party room on Tuesday that he has no truck with bullying."
After Banks initially made the allegations, some within the Liberal party denied there was a problem, while others reportedly told her to toughen up.
"Frankly, I'm a little bit disgusted by that," said O'Dwyer.
Dutton, who retained his home affairs portfolio despite initiating the leadership coup, said he was not aware of any of his supporters acting inappropriately.
"I think in these times you get robust conversations between people," he told Network Seven. "I am not aware of any facts where people have done that (bullying). As I say, I wouldn't condone it."