Tuesday, 23 February 2021
Questions without Notice
Members of Parliament: Staff
My question is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Reynolds. Is the minister aware that when asked if she would release the minister from any privacy concerns and allow her to speak freely her former staff member Ms Higgins replied 'Of course'?
The answer is, of course, I have. But, as I've said on many occasions in this chamber, Brittany's story is hers and hers alone to tell publicly. Brittany has said that tomorrow she is speaking with the AFP. I believe—I believed it last week and I believe it this week—to the bottom of my heart, that these discussions should be had with the AFP. And, of course, I stand ready, once Ms Higgins has gone to the AFP, to discuss these matters with her further.
I thank Senator Gallagher for that question. I think much has been said about this issue publicly and in this place over the last two weeks, and there are many, many issues arising from that commentary. Some of that, rightly, is now an issue for the AFP and for Ms Higgins to pursue that with the AFP. As the Prime Minister has said, there will be an inquiry led by the head of Prime Minister and Cabinet into the specifics and the circumstances of this inquiry. And that is absolutely the right place for all of these matters, particularly the procedural matters, to be discussed. I understand that Minister Birmingham is working with the Labor Party and all parties in this chamber, in this parliament, on a broader inquiry into the cultural reforms and procedural reforms that, clearly, we all agree need to occur. (Time expired)
Ms Higgins has said in relation to the minister that, 'I don't think she's ever respected my privacy. So, her sudden concern for it now, I find it patently false.' Given Ms Higgins has made her wishes well known, will the minister stop using Ms Higgins' privacy to hide from her accountability to this place and answer questions asked of her?
Honourable senators interjecting—