Monday, 22 February 2021
Questions without Notice
Members of Parliament: Staff
My question is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Reynolds. On Thursday the Prime Minister disclosed in House question time that the minister met with the Assistant Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police on 4 April. What was the purpose of this meeting?
I thank the senator for the question. As I made very clear in my statement on Thursday, during my meeting with Brittany that she would have my full support in whatever course of action she chose to take, that she would have full access to counselling services and that, if she wished, I would assist her to get access to the Australian Federal Police. Without betraying any confidences, as I have consistently not done here, I did, through my staff, reach out to the Australian Federal Police for an appropriately qualified person to talk to Brittany, and that is my understanding of what occurred.
The point of order is relevance. I think we showed some courtesy for how the minister was last week. That does not obviate her obligation to be accountable to this chamber for her conduct. She is being asked a question about whether or not this meeting occurred with the permission or with the knowledge of the complainant. There is no prejudice associated with that. It is a matter on which the Prime Minister has spoken in the House, and I'd ask the minister to respond to the question.
I've allowed to you to make the point, Senator Wong. I don't believe that the minister is not being directly relevant, because I think she is addressing the question. There is an opportunity to debate questions after question time. I call Senator Reynolds.
I will continue, because I had only spoken for seven seconds. As I've consistently said, on that Monday we made available and advised that we would provide and make available the appropriate counselling services, which was done, and also that, if she wanted to talk to the Australian Federal Police, we would facilitate that. At all times and at all times through that process, as I've said in this chamber a number of times, everything that was done was with her knowledge and with her concurrence. From that day right through, it has always been my first and only consideration was her privacy, her agency, and to take my steps—
I think as I said twice in the chamber last week, I did facilitate a meeting for Ms Higgins, if she wanted one, with the Australian Federal Police. It was the assistant commissioner who came up to my office and met briefly with me, alone. Again, I took all advice, and then the AFP met with Brittany. That was the conclusion of my engagement, because I had made the reference to the AFP. Again, what we discussed in those meetings is not my story to tell. It is not my story to tell, and I have always continued to respect her privacy and her story, and I will continue to do so. (Time expired)