Monday, 22 February 2021
Questions without Notice
Members of Parliament: Staff
My question is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Reynolds. At any time did the minister disclose to the Prime Minister that her former staff member Ms Higgins had made allegations she was raped in the minister's office? If not, why not?
In short, no, I didn't. The reason for that, as I have consistently said here in this chamber, that it was not my story to tell. It never was. I, at all times, took my lead from Brittany Higgins, in terms of what support she needed and who was to know about this and who was not. The advice is always, whether it's from 1800RESPECT or whether it's from others, that you always take the lead of the individual, and that is what I did.
On direct relevance: the question, before we get to the justification, was whether or not the minister had disclosed the fact of the alleged rape to any of the Prime Minister's staff. I would ask the minister to return to that question.
Direct relevance. Yes, it is about Ms Higgins and she has made her views very clear. We are asking you questions about your conduct, Minister. The question I'm asking you to return to—through you, Mr President—is whether or not you disclosed the allegation of rape to any other ministers and, if so, when?
I believe the minister is being directly relevant.
Senator Wong interjecting—
I can't instruct a minister how to answer a question. I believe, if the minister is explaining the reasons for a course of action that was raised in the question, that is being directly relevant to the question. That is an opportunity after question time to debate it. Senator Reynolds.
Senator McCarthy, in her question, is assuming the nature of a private conversation that I had with Ms Higgins. I have consistently said that it is not my story to tell, it is hers. Any conversations we had were never mine to reveal, and they are still not mine to reveal.
Direct relevance. We are not asking about private conversations with Ms Higgins. We are asking whether this minister disclosed those allegations to other ministers and, if so, when. This minister is accountable to this chamber for her conduct.
I say again that in the question I was just asked, that last supplementary, it makes assumptions about what may or may not have been said in that conversation. I am not going to say anything that breaches the confidence of that conversation. You are assuming things about— (Time expired)