Lib minister having a baby with media adviser
The NSW Skills and Tertiary Education Minister Geoffrey Lee is expecting a child with his former media adviser Carmel Melouney.
The 52-year-old minister on Friday confirmed, via a spokesman, and to this column, his relationship with the woman who joined his office last year.
"Mr Lee and his partner Ms Melouney are in a happy relationship and are delighted to be expecting a child next year to welcome into their household."
The couple's relationship - which insiders say began last summer - has been, until now, a well-guarded secret on account of Melouney, a media and communications graduate, joining the Parramatta MP's staff in May 2019.
News the couple will soon welcome their first child has stunned members of the NSW Liberal Party, coming in a week in which questions are being asked about relationships between politicians and staff.
This week Rachelle Miller, a former female adviser to Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Minister Alan Tudge, confirmed she has lodged a formal complaint alleging workplace bullying after an affair with Tudge.
At the same time, Attorney-General Christian Porter was accused of being a misogynist in his dealings with female colleagues. Porter denies the allegations.
At a time when the media is once again focused on former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull's "bonk ban", Lee and Melouney's consensual relationship adds fuel to the discussions over government ministers and their subordinate staff.
The pregnancy has prompted comparison to another relationship that scandalised parliament in 2017, that of former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce and his ex media adviser Vikki Campion who fell pregnant to Joyce before the pair went public with their relationship. The couple now has two sons.
Like Campion, Melouney is a former journalist who once worked for News Corp, publisher of this newspaper.
Unlike Joyce, who was married to wife of 24 years Natalie and had four daughters, Lee, a former horticulturalist who owned a garden centre before entering politics, is divorced from his first wife Sue-Maree. The couple separated in 2008 and had no children together.
So acrimonious was the couple's break-up, in 2010 police obtained an AVO on the businessman's behalf against his ex-wife after Mrs Lee conducted a letterbox-drop distributing 6000 flyers attacking her estranged husband on personal and professional grounds.
It coincided with Lee announcing his candidacy for the seat of Parramatta. The AVO was later withdrawn.
Around the same time, Lee was one of three people named in a protected disclosures complaint to ICAC that was made by a former university colleague accusing the trio of being involved in "cronyism", "conflict of interest" and "inappropriate management practice resulting in corruption".
Lee said, at the time, he was unaware he'd been named in the ICAC complaint and denied any wrongdoing. No action was taken against Lee.
Melouney had a varied media career before joining Lee's office in 2019. Her LinkedIn biography states she has worked for The Wall Street Journal, The Sunday Telegraph and Fairfax Media and had her work published in The Guardian, The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald and Vogue and Elle magazines during a 14-year media career that preceded her employment at Lee's office.
Now in her late 30s, Melouney was recently transferred to another government department and works for Education and Early Childhood Learning Minister Sarah Mitchell.
Melouney could not be reached for comment on Friday.
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Originally published as Lib minister having a baby with media adviser