4 Jan 2016

Australian MP apologises for 'mad witch' text

4:04 pm on 4 January 2016

Australian immigration minister Peter Dutton has apologised after accidentally sending an offensive text message to a journalist that called her a "mad f***ing witch'.

 Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, June 23, 2015.

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton Photo: AAP

The senior Cabinet minister mistakenly sent the message to the Sunday Telegraph's political editor Samantha Maiden on Sunday.

The text message was allegedly meant for former minister Jamie Briggs, who resigned this week after a female public servant raised concerns about his behaviour following dinner and drinks with Mr Briggs and his chief of staff during an overseas trip.

Mr Dutton's text was in response to a column the journalist had written that morning.

Mr Dutton has confirmed he sent the text and said he apologised immediately for the mistake.

"Sam and I have exchanged some robust language over the years, so we had a laugh after this and I apologised to her straight away which she took in good faith," he said in a statement.

"I'm expecting a tough time in her next column!"

This morning Ms Maiden said Mr Dutton should not be stripped of his ministry over the mistake.

She was not offended by the message, which she declined to label sexist.

"Certainly, he did call me a mad witch, that much is true," she said.

"I was more than happy to accept Peter Dutton's apology. As soon as he sent me that text saying 'Mate, she's a bit of a mad witch' I sent him a text saying 'Mate, you've sent the text to the mad witch'.

"Bit of a rookie error."

It is not the first time Mr Dutton has faced criticisms over inappropriate comments.

In September last year he was overheard by a television microphone making a quip about the plight of Pacific Island nations facing rising seas from climate change.

Mr Dutton was involved in a conversation with then-prime minister Tony Abbott, who had just returned from lengthy talks focused on climate change with Pacific Island leaders in Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea.

Noting the meeting on Syrian refugees was running a bit late, Mr Dutton remarked that it was running to "Cape York time", to which Mr Abbott replied: "We had a bit of that up in Port Moresby."

Mr Dutton then added: "Time doesn't mean anything when you're about to have water lapping at your door."

Treasurer Scott Morrison, who was then social services minister, pointed out to both men that there was a three-metre-long boom pole microphone overhead.

Mr Dutton later refused to answer questions about the incident.

"I had a private conversation with the prime minister," he said.