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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has broken his silence over the controversy surrounding Peter Dutton, saying the Immigration Minister's language in a text message was "clearly inappropriate".
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Labor puts pressure on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over Immigration Minister Peter Dutton's 'boorish' text message. (Vision ABC News 24)
Acting Opposition Leader Penny Wong said just four days into the 2016 election year the government was "in chaos" and that Mr Dutton's texting mishap, in which he labelled a senior female journalist a "mad f---ing witch", warranted a strong response from Mr Turnbull.
"It's all very well to talk about increasing the role of women and stronger ministerial standards - today is the day Malcolm Turnbull must put all that talk into action," Senator Wong said.
"This is one of Malcolm Turnbull's biggest tests so far - he must front the cameras today and explain how this is acceptable behaviour.
"If he fails to front up, he's sending the clear signal he thinks this behaviour is appropriate."
Mr Turnbull and the Prime Minister's Office had remained silent on Monday over Mr Dutton's gaffe and the leaking of a photo and private details concerning a female public servant who complained about Mr Briggs.
Mr Briggs last week stepped down from his position as cities minister after acting inappropriately towards a female colleague while on an overseas trip. On Sunday he confirmed he distributed the picture of the public servant to colleagues.
Mr Turnbull is not on leave but has not spoken publicly since Wednesday last week.
But in a short statement on Monday evening, Mr Turnbull said: "As I advised the minister yesterday his language was clearly inappropriate as he recognised by apologising immediately to Ms Maiden".
When Mr Briggs resigned last week, Mr Turnbull called the Hong Kong incident a "serious matter" and said ministers are expected to uphold "high standards of behaviour".
It has since been revealed Mr Dutton sent senior News Corp journalist Samantha Maiden a text message calling her a "mad f---ing witch". Maiden had published a highly critical column in the Sunday tabloids and Mr Dutton had intended to send the text message to Mr Briggs, a close personal friend.
As I advised the minister yesterday his language was clearly inappropriate as he recognised by apologising immediately to Ms Maiden
He has since apologised and Maiden has said while she can understand some women would find the term "witch" sexist, she was not offended by it.
Mr Dutton is a leader of the Liberal Party's conservative faction and any attempt by Mr Turnbull to discipline him would be met with hostility by the already unhappy right-wing.
Mr Dutton is the host of the notorious "Monkey Pod room" meetings of like-minded conservative MPs, including former prime minister Tony Abbott.
Mr Briggs was almost dropped from the ministry when Mr Turnbull became Prime Minister but survived when former small business minister Bruce Billson declined to serve as cities minister.