Wednesday, 17 February 2021
Questions without Notice
Members of Parliament: Staff
My question is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Reynolds. The minister says she has always wanted Ms Higgins to drive this process. If that is true, why has the minister failed to assure the Senate that neither she nor her staff nor any of the Prime Minister's staff said or did anything which may have encouraged Ms Higgins not to pursue the incident with police? Will the minister now provide that assurance?
The minister says she has always wanted Ms Higgins to drive this process. If that is true, why, as Ms Higgins says, was the alleged rape 'a taboo thing; it was never spoken about again'?
I thank Senator Keneally for that question. As I have observed in this place over the last three days, this process begins and ends with allowing her to guide this process, respecting her privacy and respecting the integrity of what is now a police investigation.
The minister says she has always wanted Ms Higgins to drive this process, but when Ms Higgins was asked whether she felt pressured in any way whatsoever not to proceed with the case to the police Ms Higgins stated unequivocally, 'Absolutely'—absolutely. Does the minister accept that Ms Higgins felt pressured not to proceed with her complaint to the police?
Mr President, this is a critically important point. I have been very, very, very consistent and have said that this has always been about consulting Brittany Higgins and providing the advice to her and allowing her agency to determine what she does.
The point of order is direct relevance. I understand the minister got back up on her feet to attempt to answer the question, but she doesn't actually address the question. It was: does she accept Ms Higgins felt pressure? It's not about what she did; it's about what she accepts.
I cannot speak for anybody else in this place. I speak and I'm accountable for my own actions, and, as I've said, at the beginning and the end, this process was about respecting her privacy and her integrity and her wishes.