A Monika-Lewinsky-like affair is now rocking Australia. A former barmaid is claiming that she had had a steamy affair with South Australian Premier Mike Rann. They had sex right in his office at State Parliament, she asserts.
Quite a popular leader, the 56-year-old Rann married actress Sasha Curruozzo in 2006, and he has two children from a previous marriage. He denies the allegations against him, though he admits 'friendship' with the former Parliament House barmaid Michelle Chantelois.
Country's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is backing his South Australian colleague. Mike Rann is the longest serving state premier in the country, and his approval ratings have been among the highest in the country.
But as the state is to go to polls in a few months, the scam has caused considerable consternation in the ranks of the ruling Australian Labour Party.
In the latest twist, Michelle Chantelois has dared the premier to go for a lie detector test, a challenge he is ducking, saying the truth would come out in the defamation action. He is suing a TV channel and a magazine that carried the allegations, but not his 'friend' herself.
In paid interviews on Seven Network and in New Idea
magazine, the 39-year-old mother of two spoke of an intense 18 month affair that included sex sessions on the Premier's desk in Parliament House, snatched meetings while parliament was in session and passionate trysts in a car at a golf course.
Chantelois told New Idea that one incident happened after the Premier had asked her to his office.
"When I got there, he grabbed me and pinned me against the door and began kissing me with his tongue," she told said.
"Then he guided me to his desk and sat me on top of his desk and dropped his trousers and had sex with me. It was mutual and I was not surprised."
Ms Chantelois also detailed late-night encounters at a city golf course.
"We would go parking ... it was always late in the evening, dark, no one could see us," she said.
The South Australian Prime Minister continues to maintain the allegations were false. only designed to do him damage, both personally and politically.
He said the claims were totally false and were only aimed at damaging him politically and personally.
"There were suggestions that I had sex on the floor of Parliament House, in my office, between meetings while parliament was sitting," he said.
"Any one of you who is a political reporter would know how absolutely ridiculous and absurd that would be.
"My office is like a train station, a revolving door on grand central station.
"I am constantly surrounded by advisers, members of Parliament come in and out, ministers come in and out, staffers come in and out, members of the Opposition come in and out.
"The suggestion that I would have sex on a golf course in Adelaide, as a fairly visible citizen of this state, is totally, absolutely ridiculous.
"So I reject these allegations and I can say today that I will be taking legal action against Channel 7 and New Idea
for allegations that are totally, absolutely untrue."
Asked if he had ever had sex with Ms Chantelois at any place, Mr Rann said he had "rejected those allegations of having sex with her".
"I have not had sex with her," he said.
Mr Rann said his friendship with Mrs Chantelois was "flirty" and "based of confidences".
"I've never hidden the fact that I had a friendship, but there's a real difference between that friendship and what has been said," Mr Rann said.
Mr Rann said his wife Sasha Carruozzo, who he married in 2006, was fully aware of his previous friendship with Ms Chantelois.
"If Sasha is comfortable with my friendships, then why should anybody else in the state not be comfortable," he said.
Chantellois herself claims her secret affair destroyed her 15 year marriage, broke up her family and left her on the brink of suicide. Her husband, Rick Wayne Phillips, an Adelaide businessman was charged with assaulting Mr Rann last month.
It was then reported that he was struck repeatedly in the face during a "brutal" bashing at a corporate dinner.
The Premier said he was "fine" after the man allegedly hit him in the face up to six times with a rolled-up magazine in Adelaide last night.
Mr Rann was allegedly attacked from behind while seated at a table at the $600-a-head business function.
The 55-year-old Phillips has been charged with aggravated assault. He will appear in court in December.