House debates

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Questions without Notice

Members of Parliament: Staff

2:58 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. Why did the Prime Minister publicly rebuke the Minister for Defence for not telling him about the reported sexual assault of Brittany Higgins in 2019 but has not rebuked the Minister for Home Affairs for exactly the same thing?

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I do very much welcome this, because I have been asked only one question in relation to the issue you've just raised. I remember that it was after we had just been together, the Leader of the Opposition and I, in relation to the ovarian cancer breakfast. I was asked by journalists about whether I was unhappy that I hadn't been told about this matter. And I've been asked the same thing here. My response in relation to not being happy about this related to the fact that I did not know about this on Monday. I made no reference to Minister Reynolds. I would have hoped, in relation to Minister Reynolds, that on these matters some anonymised reference to this could have been brought to my attention. If she had done that, I would have done exactly as I indicated to the House right here.

Now, in relation to the Minister for Home Affairs, the Minister for Home Affairs advised my office from his chief of staff to mine. He took that step. He did that, and I was apprised in relation to the then Minister for Defence Industry. That minister did not disclose that in an anonymised way. That is something that I wish she had, but she did not, and her reason for doing that was to protect Brittany Higgins's privacy. She has said that, and I have reflected on how people may form different views about whether that was a wise decision. I've done the same thing. As a result, I would hope that, in the future, if people wish to protect the privacy of any individual, they could raise these matters in an anonymised way. Indeed, the Minister for Home Affairs, as I understand it, was not aware of the identity of Brittany Higgins in that matter. But the Minister for Home Affairs did raise it with my office through his chief of staff to my chief of staff the following day.