Thursday, 18 February 2021
Questions to the President
Members of Parliament: Staff
Can I commence, Senator Waters, by saying, for the first time this week in this place, that I struggle to find the words, be they formal or informal, to fully express my sorrow and, occasionally, frustration and anger, at what has occurred in this workplace: the alleged sexual assault. It's occurred on my watch as a senator and, indeed, as a custodian of this place. At all times I have acted to the best of my ability to assist any process that will help Brittany Higgins, whose identity I was not aware of until last Friday, find justice without further suffering and with her own ability to choose her course of action.
The Speaker and I have answered a number of queries this week and issued a statement yesterday. I think senators will appreciate that the building is jointly administered by the Speaker and myself. We followed the procedures. The Federal Police requested viewing of the footage. They saw that footage. With their agreement, we have continued to store that footage since that time. When we received anonymous and serious allegations we referred those to the AFP. We then, following that, commissioned our independent inquiry into the actions of staff in this building. Now, I think it's appropriate—I should add, to clarify—that neither of the presiding officers, myself or the Speaker, has viewed the footage. The footage in question has been viewed only by members of the AFP, authorised officials from the Department of Parliamentary Services and the independent investigator. We have not provided any footage access to any parliamentarian or member of staff.
Now, I don't plan to say any more at this point, because it is a courtesy to the Speaker, as a joint administrator of the building, that I should consult with him, and I will come back to the chamber and, if necessary, consult with the authorities before I add anything in this chamber that may inadvertently interfere with any investigation underway.