Activist Sally Rugg has surrounded herself with a group of powerful media pals ahead of a looming multi-million dollar court battle with Teal MP Monique Ryan.
Ms Rugg is a close friend of high-profile ABC journalists Louise Milligan, Annabel Crabb and Patricia Karvelas, and enjoys other influential connections in the media, including multiple award-winning reporter Samantha Maiden.
Milligan, an investigative reporter and author of the award-winning book about Cardinal George Pell, regularly socialises with Ms Rugg and her partner, ABC comedian Kate McCartney.
Long-time political reporter Karvelas currently hosts RN Breakfast, while political journalist and presenter Crabb has created a swag of ABC TV shows, including Kitchen Cabinet, The House, and Back In Time For Dinner.
Ms Rugg is also friends with Jo Chichester, the ABC’s Manager of Screen and Jacqueline Maley, the Nine Newspapers popular columnist and author.
If the row over her $166,000 political job with the MP for Kooyong goes to trial as predicted, the former GetUp! and Change.org campaigner will have plenty of high-profile supporters.
Ms Rugg is suing her former employer in the Federal Court over what she claims to be ‘unreasonable’ work expectations and a ‘hostile’ workplace.
Ms Rugg, back left, with her partner ABC comedian Kate McCartney, front left, Annabel Crabb, centre, Louise Milligan, back right in October last year
Power posse: Sally Rugg (left) with Louise Milligan, ABC Screen boss Jo Chichester, Jacqueline Maley and Annabel Crabb on a night out at Bart Jr restaurant in Redfern
Ms Rugg alleges Dr Ryan sacked her in January after complaints of being overworked, could be linked to seeds of discontent sewn almost at the start of her tenure as the MP’s chief-of-staff.
Ms Rugg began working as chief of staff for Dr Ryan, a former paediatric neurologist, in the last week of July 2022.
It was about the same time Dr Ryan and her fellow Teal MPs were giving their maiden speeches to Parliament.
Ms Rugg tweeted that it was the ‘best first-week-of-a-new-job ever’ with a smiling emoji, and on August 13, she tweeted again that ‘I love my new job so much omg’.
But it only took six months for the two women to part ways, with Ms Rugg finishing up in late January, then seeking an interim injunction to stop the Commonwealth from terminating her employment.
Ms Rugg’s lawsuit alleged Dr Ryan took ‘adverse action’ against her ‘to injure [Ms Rugg] in her employment by engaging in hostile conduct in the workplace’.
Federal Court judge Debbie Mortimer on Tuesday dismissed Ms Rugg’s application to return to work while she awaited a possible trial.
Sally Rugg and Kate McCartney with Patricia Karvelas, the ABC current affairs presenter and journalist who currently hosts RN Breakfast
Sally Rugg (right) with, from left, Louise Milligan, Samantha Maiden and, centre back, Annabel Crabb in January this year a few weeks before Ms Rugg says she was sacked by Monique Ryan
Rugg’s first week in Dr Ryan’s office featured in Milligan’s Four Corners program entitled Independents’ Day.
The program, which aired two weeks later, showed the generous access the ABC was given to the Kooyong MP, along with independents Zali Steggall, Zoe Daniel and Dai Le.
At the time, rival outlet Sky News ran scathing reviews of it as a ‘gushing’ and ‘fluffy … puff piece’ for Monique Ryan instead of the ‘hard hitting’ journalism for which Four Corners is renowned.
Sky’s guests, media commentators Daisy Cousens and Sophie Elsworth, laid into Dr Ryan.
Cousens said the show was ‘a parody of itself, if you are going to do a puff piece on any of the independents why would you choose Monique Ryan?’
Sally Rugg, centre, is suing her former employer in the Federal Court over what she claims to be ‘unreasonable’ work expectations
Sally Rugg tweets in July last year in the first week of her job as chief-of-staff for Monique Ryan as the new Kooyong MP and her fellow Teals gave their maiden speeches to Parliament
Sally Rugg retweets Louise Milligan’s Four Corners program about Monique Ryan and the new Teals independents which was dismissed by rival network Sky as a ‘gushing puff piece’
Federal Court judge Debbie Mortimer on Tuesday dismissed Ms Rugg’s application to return to work for Dr Ryan (pictured) while she awaited a possible trial
In the Federal Court this week, Ms Rugg claimed Dr Ryan had sacked her for refusing to work ‘additional hours that were unreasonable’.
Ms Rugg had told the court she was so worried about Dr Ryan’s temper she felt even taking personal time to purchase tampons would bring on the ire of her boss.
In handing down her ruling, Justice Mortimer told the parties to continue to work together to resolve the matter in the hope of avoiding a costly trial.
Ms Rugg has foreshadowed an intention to add penalty claims against the Commonwealth, which are wider in scope and relate to allegations of a systematic tolerance for unreasonable working hours by all parliamentary staff.
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