Brittany Higgins hits back at Linda Reynolds after it was revealed her former boss called her a ‘lying cow’ – saying it highlights ‘toxic culture’ in parliament
- Brittany Higgins alleged she was raped inside the minister’s office in 2019
- Linda Reynolds did not deny making tasteless comment in an open office space
- Scott Morrison confirmed Reynolds had made comments she ‘deeply regrets’
- Higgins said minister’s comments were ‘incredibly hurtful’ and are inexcusable
Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins says the comments made by embattled Defence Minister Linda Reynolds are ‘never excusable’ after Scott Morrison confirmed she called the alleged rape victim a ‘lying cow’.
Ms Higgins says she was raped by a colleague in Senator Reynolds’ ministerial office in 2019.
The prime minister said Senator Reynolds was frustrated over suggestions she did not give enough support to Ms Higgins at the time of the incident.
He said the remark was made in a private office and she later apologised to staff for the outburst.
‘She deeply regrets it. They were offensive remarks. She should never have made them. I don’t condone them,’ the prime minister told reporters in NSW on Thursday.
Ms Higgins says the comments were ‘incredibly hurtful’.
Brittany Higgins has hit back at Linda Reynolds after it was revealed she called her a ‘lying cow’
‘I appreciate that it has been a stressful time but that sort of behaviour and language is never excusable,’ she said in a statement.
‘It’s just further evidence of the toxic workplace culture that occurs behind closed doors in Parliament House.’
Senator Reynolds, who is on medical leave following heavy criticism of her handling of the allegation, is under increasing pressure to resign.
Ms Higgins didn’t proceed with the police complaint in 2019 out of fear she would lose her job as a media adviser.
Independent senator Jacqui Lambie is calling for the minister to quit over the remark.
‘She’s gone this morning. She needs to resign immediately,’ Senator Lambie told Sky News.
‘If she’s not coming out denying that, if she’s trying to smooth it over and throw it somewhere else then I think she’s finished. Her career’s done.’
The prime minister said Senator Linda Reynolds (pictured) was frustrated over suggestions she did not give enough support to Ms Higgins at the time of the incident
Ms Higgins says the comments made by Ms Reynolds were ‘incredibly hurtful’
Senior Labor frontbencher Penny Wong said Senator Reynolds needed to explain herself.
‘It’s obviously not an acceptable comment and I think the minister needs to respond publicly,’ she told ABC radio.
Brittany Higgins, then 24, alleged she was raped by a colleague inside Parliament House in March 2019
Independent MP Zali Steggall said she was shocked to hear Senator Reynolds used the derogatory term towards Ms Higgins.
‘That’s incredibly disappointing and inappropriate of Linda Reynolds and the minister should know better,’ she told the Nine Network.
‘It makes her position all the more untenable.’
Senator Reynolds issued a statement saying she had never questioned Ms Higgins’ account.
‘I did, however, comment on news reports regarding surrounding circumstances that I felt had been misrepresented,’ the minister said.
Ms Higgins has recently reinstated her official complaint with the Australian Federal Police.
Three other women have since alleged they were assaulted by the same man.
He was sacked as a ministerial adviser because of a security breach on the night of Ms Higgins’ alleged rape.
Scott Morrison said the remark was made in a private office and she later apologised to staff for the outburst
BRITTANY HIGGINS TIMELINE
March 22: Anonymous male staffer of Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and media adviser Brittany Higgins arrive at Parliament House intoxicated.
A security officer signs in the pair and then takes them to the ministerial wing before leaving. Ms Higgins is then allegedly raped and left alone by staffer.
March 23: Security officers find Ms Higgins half-naked in the office early in the morning. The Department of Finance (which is in charge of Parliament House offices) request room to be cleaned before work on Monday (March 25)
March 26: Senator Reynolds’ chief of staff holds a meeting with Ms Higgins over a ‘security breach’. The male staffer is also brought in for a separate meeting and is sacked. His Parliament House pass is cancelled the next day.
April 1: Ms Higgins meets with her boss – Senator Reynolds – and the minister’s chief of staff Fiona Brown to talk about the alleged rape. The meeting takes place in the same room as the alleged rape.
April 4: Senator Reynolds and Ms Brown meet with AFP assistant commissioner to discuss ‘allegations of sexual assault’.
April 8: Ms Higgins goes to Belconnen police station. There is dispute over whether officers have trouble accessing the CCTV footage from Parliament House.
April 13: Ms Higgins tells police she won’t proceed with complaint. She later told reporters she felt pressure not to be a distraction during the federal election – which was called two days earlier on April 11.
June: Ms Higgins begins to work for minister Michaelia Cash after the election
November 9: ABC’s Four Corners’ airs a story exposing the ‘sex and booze’ culture in Canberra, including an affair between married minister Alan Tudge and his staffer Rachelle Miller.
February 5: Ms Higgins resigns from her new job, working for Senator Michaelia Cash, due to the ongoing trauma from the alleged rape.
February 11: Peter Dutton is briefed by Australian Federal Police over Ms Higgins’ allegations. He advises the Prime Minister’s Office the following day but does not tell Scott Morrison
February 15: news.com.au break Ms Higgins’ story on Monday morning. Mr Morrison claims it is the first time he was made aware of the allegations.
Journalist Samantha Maiden questions why the PM was not made aware of the allegations by his staffers, saying she approached the government for comment at 2.30pm on Friday February 12 regarding the allegations.
The Project interview Ms Higgins later the same night.
February 16: Mr Morrison and Ms Reynolds both offer apologies in parliament.