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‘Trench warfare’ between Monique Ryan and political staffer

There's no love lost between aide Sally Rugg (l) and Kooyong MP Monique Ryan.

There's no love lost between aide Sally Rugg (l) and Kooyong MP Monique Ryan. Photo: AAP/TND

Independent MP Monique Ryan has hit back with sarcasm after it emerged she told her chief of staff she wanted to become prime minister.

Court documents in the legal fight over Dr Ryan’s sacking of political staffer Sally Rugg reveal that in a meeting the MP said she held lofty ambitions.

“You don’t understand, I need to be the best, this is bigger than Kooyong,” Ms Rugg alleged Dr Ryan told her in November 2022.

“I want to be the prime minister one day and I need to know my staff are prepared to work hard for me.

“If you are not prepared to work as hard as I want, I will need to consider my options.”

Explosive details also described a breakdown in Dr Ryan and Ms Rugg’s relationship since meeting socially in mid-2022, shortly after Dr Ryan was elected to the federal seat of Kooyong.

Ms Rugg was appointed Dr Ryan’s media advisor, which was later merged into a hybrid role after crossbench MP staffing numbers were cut.

Outside court on Friday, Dr Ryan played down the comments and later posted a tweet joking about her political ambitions.

“People: this is a joke,” she wrote.

“For those wondering, though, I’m *very* serious about swimming in the Olympics next year.”

Pushed or jostled?

Ms Rugg will have to wait until next week to find out if she will retain her job, after she sought an urgent injunction to save it while she pursues legal action against the teal MP.

Her lawyer on Friday claimed she was pushed or jostled into resigning from Dr Ryan’s office in January, after she refused to work unreasonable hours, which is heavily disputed by Dr Ryan.

Ms Rugg outlined a number of claims against Dr Ryan in affidavits.

Ms Rugg has alleged Dr Ryan gave her a formal warning after she took a commercial flight home after testing positive to COVID-19 in November, which was not illegal at the time.

Dr Ryan, a medical practitioner, allegedly told Ms Rugg that flying while infected with the virus was a “media or brand risk” to her.

She then told Ms Rugg “I don’t think your employment is working out”, court documents claim.

Ms Rugg claims she had to work more than 70 hours per week and then perform additional community engagement work in the Kooyong electorate, which she said was not part of her role.

Her barrister Angel Aleksov said Ms Rugg’s salary of $136,000 plus a parliamentary allowance of $30,000 did “not justify someone working 70-plus hours a week, week in, week out”.

The staffer alleged Dr Ryan told her she would terminate her job after becoming frustrated with Ms Rugg’s performance, the COVID-19 incident and after the chief of staff took stress leave.

Dr Ryan’s barrister Matthew Minucci said she denied all claims brought against her, including hostile workplace allegations.

He pointed to an Instagram post by Ms Rugg, where she said she had “left her job”, as evidence she was not pushed to resign.

Mr Aleksov said Ms Rugg wanted to return to work as an advisor, undertaking policy and media work, while her lawsuit continues.

But Mr Minucci said Dr Ryan does not want to work with Ms Rugg again.

‘Trench warfare’

Commonwealth barrister Nick Harrington asked for Ms Rugg’s attempts to keep her job to be rejected as the affidavits showed “trench warfare has broken out”.

“It is a relationship that has withered on the vine,” he said.

Justice Debra Mortimer flagged Ms Rugg’s return to work may be unworkable, but said she would deliver her decision next Tuesday.

Dr Ryan issued a statement late on Friday saying politicians and their parliamentary staff were paid more than most Australians and “the public should expect that we work very hard and prioritise engaging with our constituents”.

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