Wednesday, 17 February 2021
Questions without Notice
Members of Parliament: Staff
My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, the maximum sentence in the Australian Capital Territory for rape is more than 10 years. What are the existing protocols and procedures in your office when someone becomes aware a serious crime may have been committed by a ministerial staffer? Were these followed in relation to the reported rape of Brittany Higgins?
I also refer to the statements made by Senator Reynolds in the Senate yesterday where she said she sought and followed advice from ministerial and parliamentary services regarding the support available and she said she was at pains to ensure that Brittany felt empowered to determine how she was to handle the matter. That remains the case. The issue here in this terrible incident is that at the time this occurred there was a security breach involved and that was the matter that was addressed at the time. Indeed, there was a staff member whose employment was terminated as a result of that security breach. At that time there was no advice certainly to our office that this incident involved any alleged sexual assault. Whether an alleged sexual assault is taken to the next stage and is advised to the police as a matter for investigation is the decision of that person—in this case, Brittany, and, in any other case, whoever that may be. So it is up to them to have the power of the decision as to how that should proceed.
In that case, I'm advised that the minister encouraged her to take that matter to the police. She was encouraged to do that. She chose at that point not to do that, and that is why the matter sat for as long as it did. I accept, as I listened to Brittany the other night, that her views about that have changed over a period of time. That is also totally understandable and totally okay. But to suggest that the government or a minister or anyone here should have acted against the wishes as expressed to them at the time and subsequently about this matter would be against the advice that we have received as to how such matters should be handled.