Monday, 22 February 2021
Questions without Notice
Members of Parliament: Staff
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Birmingham. Given that a fourth woman has now come forward with sexual assault allegations against the same perpetrator, has the alleged rapist of Brittany Higgins ever held a lobbyist pass, been on the lobbyist register or had lobbyist meetings or communications with ministers or their staff since the rape occurred, and has he visited Parliament House or any other Commonwealth office since that time?
I thank Senator Waters for her question. I understand Mr Bandt asked a similar question in the House. The Prime Minister, in the House, indicated that he is not aware whether such matters have occurred, in relation to passholders or the like; however, the Prime Minister undertook to confirm those matters and to have anything attended to and advised as quickly as possible. Certainly, in this place, I will do likewise.
Yes, thanks, President. Given the role of the Department of Finance in handling staff complaints and terminations, what was the former finance minister told regarding Ms Higgins's rape allegations and the subsequent mishandling of the complaint?
I will take the question on notice in terms of what advice may have been provided to Minister Cormann. My understanding is, as Senator Reynolds has indicated, there were instances of advice provided to her, particularly in relation to the termination processes that exist around the individual who was released due to security breaches. But as for any other advice or information that actually was provided to Minister Cormann as per your question, I will bring that to the chamber.
If the Prime Minister persists with the inadequate internal review by Mr Gaetjens into the mishandling of the response to Brittany Higgins's rape allegations rather than an independent investigation, will the government guarantee that Mr Gaetjens's full report will be made public? And will he have full investigative powers and access to all relevant ministers and staff when undertaking his review?
Yes, he will have such access. As I stated in the chamber this morning, I understand Ms Higgins has made public her intention to request a full investigation with the Australian Federal Police. The government will provide complete and full cooperation with that investigation, as we have always intended to do, following the engagements that Minister Reynolds outlined her facilitation of earlier on.