Mr McCormack was forced to defend his decision not to accept Mr Broad’s resignation when his assistant minister first offered it.
“Based on the information I was provided at the time, I was giving Andrew an opportunity to resolve this private matter with his family,” the Deputy Prime Minister said on Thursday.
It is understood Mr Morrison was not informed of the scandal by his staff until it was revealed in a New Idea article on December 17, despite both them and Mr McCormack being aware of the looming threat to the government over the potential breach of ministerial standards.
Mr Broad will repay the taxpayer-funded domestic flight he took to meet his Hong Kong flight, but had already paid for the international airfares and accommodation out of his own pocket.
On the advice of the Deputy Prime Minister’s office, Mr Morrison’s staff opted to give Mr Broad time to resolve the family matters before explosive text messages from the 43-year-old married father surfaced.
In the text messages, Mr Broad invited Ms Keating, who went by the online alias “Sweet Sophia Rose,” to a dinner on a work trip in Hong Kong in September after comparing himself to James Bond and telling her he knew “how to ride a horse, fly a plane and f— my woman”.
Further texts between the pair published on Thursday reportedly show Ms Keating growing uncomfortable during the date set up via a website that connects older “sugar daddies” with younger women.
“I have all your seedy messages and will go public with more story if you don’t transfer the allowance of 8000 HKD ($A1450) into my PayPal account … by the end of the day,” according to one message reported by the Herald Sun.
“And believe me, I’m fully aware of how much more I could get if I went public to the papers with my story.”
Mr Broad eventually resigned as assistant minister when the news broke in New Idea two weeks later and announced he would not be contesting his seat at the next election.
Mr Broad has been a prominent advocate of traditional marriage values and campaigned heavily on that basis in the lead up the same-sex marriage vote last year.
“I have done my best and at times we have achieved good things, but I have also let them down,” he said at the time of his resignation.
His resignation has triggered a competitive preselection campaign in the lead up to the next election as other Victorian Nationals look to snare the safe electorate.
Deputy Nationals leader Bridget McKenzie, who currently sits in the Senate, has refused to rule out moving to the lower house to contest the seat.
- Assistant Minster Andrew Broad contacts Amy Keating via a “sugar daddy” dating website.
- Mr Broad, a married father, shares text messages with Ms Keating comparing himself to James Bond and asks her on a date.
- Ms Keating tells Mr Broad she felt uncomfortable during the date and reportedly asks for $1450 to keep quiet.
- Mr Broad tells Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack about the alleged blackmail.
- Mr McCormack advises him to refer the matter to the Australian Federal Police.
- Police reportedly advise they have no jurisdiction over the texts from Hong Kong.
- The Prime Minister’s Office becomes aware of the legal proceedings involving Mr Broad but do not inform Mr Morrison.
- New Idea publishes the “sugar daddy” texts from Mr Broad to Ms Keating.
- Mr Broad resigns from the frontbench.
- Mr Broad announces he will not recontest the next election.
- Mr McCormack claims he first heard of the texts “a couple of weeks ago”.
- Mr McCormack confirms he rejected Mr Broad’s offer of resignation in November and the text messages from Ms Keating asking for payment surface.
- It is revealed the Prime Minister’s office knew in early December about the meeting.