Thursday, 25 February 2021
Questions without Notice
Members of Parliament: Staff
My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to his previous answer, where he suggested the involvement of the Minister for Home Affairs and his office had been known for some time. Why is it that, in fact, almost two weeks after the media broke the story of a reported sexual assault in Parliament House in March 2019, Brittany Higgins, the parliament and the people are still learning details of the government's response? Why isn't the Prime Minister just being straight, and why does his story keep changing?
The assertions put forward by the Leader of the Opposition are simply incorrect. He can assert these things all he likes, but that does not make them true. We have been very plain and clear. I learned about it on the Monday, and my office, I am advised, learned about it on the previous Friday. I should have been told when my office knew on the Friday. I learned of it on the Monday. I have been very clear about that. I could not be more clear about that.
The suggestion put forward by the Leader of the Opposition, that somehow the Minister for Home Affairs had known about this for some time, is not the case. That is simply not true. He learned about it on the Thursday and his office advised mine about it on the Friday. At the same time when the media reported on these issues, I was advised of it on the Monday. Those are the clear facts that I have presented to this House each and every day.
All I can conclude from this is that Labor are trying as they might to score political points over such a serious issue. My government will continue to focus on the issue here, which is the safety of the people who work in our building and what should be done in the event that any one of our staff, or, indeed, any member or senator, are in a situation where they may be in receipt of an allegation or seek to make a complaint themselves, so that members and senators know exactly what they should do in those circumstances. That is why I wrote to the Presiding Officers to advise them of the advice I had received from the commissioner of the Federal Police. I hope that is of some assistance to members and senators if they are put in this situation.
It is very clear that what we should seek to do, in supporting the person making any possible complaint, is ensure that these matters are brought to the attention of the police—which is what the Minister for Defence Industry at the time did. This was a matter that was known to the police and had been looked at by the police, and I am very pleased that Brittany Higgins has re-engaged that process with the police. I look forward to how that investigation proceeds.