Tuesday, 23 February 2021
Questions without Notice
Members of Parliament: Staff
My question is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Reynolds. When asked yesterday about her meeting with the Assistant Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, she said, 'Everything that was done was with her knowledge and with her concurrence'. Ms Higgins has said, 'I had no idea she was meeting with the AFP about my sexual assault.' Will the minister now correct the record?
I stand by what I said in the chamber yesterday. Just to be very clear, on 1 April I met with the AFP, Brittany and my then chief of staff. As I've said in this chamber previously, during the course of that meeting it became apparent to me that the matter was more serious than a security breach, of which I had been previously advised. That same day I organised for Brittany to meet with the AFP, something which I have been advised did occur. By way of follow-up and clarification, I met briefly with the Australian Federal Police on 4 April at their request. I commenced the meeting alone and I was then joined for a brief period by my chief of staff.
After misleading the Senate yesterday, the minister had to correct the record and confirm her chief of staff had attended her meeting with the AFP assistant commissioner. Why did the minister mislead the Senate by saying she had met with the assistant commissioner alone?
Just to be totally clear, and I'll just say it again so there's no misunderstanding, I did meet with the Australian Federal Police twice. The first one was on 1 April with Brittany and my then chief of staff. As I've said, it's my understanding that Brittany then met with the AFP out of the office and not in my presence. By way of follow-up, at their request, I met briefly with the Australian Federal Police, with the assistant commissioner, on 4 April. I commenced the meeting alone, and then my chief of staff joined me at the very end of the meeting.
The minister failed to disclose her meeting with the Assistant Commissioner of the AFP until the Prime Minister revealed that fact in House question time. She misled the Senate by saying she'd met with the assistant commissioner alone and misled the Senate by saying Ms Higgins was aware of the meeting. When will the minister be honest as to her conduct in response to the alleged rape of a staff member in her office?
I've answered that same question twice. As I've said, for complete clarity, there were two meetings. My apologies if that was not clear yesterday, but I've been very clear. For this chamber's benefit, if you would like me to clarify that for a third time, I will happily do so. I met on 1 April with Brittany and my then chief of staff. As part of that meeting, I organised for Brittany, at her request and her agency, to meet separately with the Australian Federal Police. Then, on 4 April, by way of follow-up, at the request of the AFP, I met with the assistant commissioner alone, and then my chief of staff joined that meeting—to the best of my recollection, at the end of that meeting.