Brittany Higgins was paid a second taxpayer-funded sum in addition to her $2.4million compensation payment from the Federal government, Daily Mail Australia can reveal.
Documents released by the Federal Court for Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation trial against Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson last night show Ms Higgins received a ‘modest’ sum of financial assistance from the ACT Victims of Crime Commission.
The exact payment made to Ms Higgins by the organisation – which is headed by close Higgins supporter, Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates – was not made clear in the documents.
It comes as the deed for Ms Higgins’ compensation claim against the Commonwealth over her alleged rape revealed she was separately handed a multimillion-dollar payment after striking a settlement that was based entirely on her own version of events.
Contrary evidence from other key witnesses was not brought into the mediation room with Anthony Albanese’s government.
Brittany Higgins was paid a second taxpayer-fund sum by a government organisation, in addition to a $2.4million compensation payment from the Federal government
The exact payment made to Ms Higgins by the organisation – which is headed by close Higgins supporter, Victims of Crime Commissioner Heidi Yates (pictured in blue next to Higgins outside the Supreme Court on October, 27, 2022) – was not made clear in the documents
Justice Michael Lee, who is presiding over the defamation hearing, told the court on Thursday there was a ‘disparity between the evidence she gave in these proceedings and the truth of the matter’.
Earlier in the week, Ms Higgins told the court the Albanese government admitted liability and ‘breached its duty of care and didn’t go through proper processes’.
But the document specifically states all claims were settled ‘without any admission of liability’, and the deed appears to have been drafted by Ms Higgins’ legal team alone.
There was no reference to the points raised during Mr Lehrmann’s criminal trial in October 2022.
The settlement was dated December 13, 2022 – well after evidence was heard and tendered to the ACT Supreme Court, and ten days after the former ACT Director of Public Prosecutions dropped the charge against Mr Lehrmann.
Not only does Ms Higgins make heavily disputed claims about her former bosses Michaelia Cash and Linda Reynolds, her version of the alleged sexual assault appears different to what she told journalists, police, and two courts.
Her ‘hurt, distress and humiliation’ was valued at $400,000, past and future domestic assistance cost $100,000, $220,000 for medical expenses, legal fees were a further $245,000, and $1,480,000 was paid for lost wages.
That comes to about $2.445million in Federal compensation – which is about $145,000 more than the $2.3million estimate she told Justice Lee on Tuesday.
The night of the alleged rape
There appears to be a number of inconsistent statements the version of events Ms Higgins told journalists, police, the ACT Supreme Court, and the Federal Court.
Ms Higgins says in the settlement Mr Lehrmann was buying rounds of drinks on March 22, 2019, which he was, but it also states she noticed that he wasn’t drinking himself.
If she held that view when she she first gave her version of events in 2021, there was no reason for her to have still held that view by December last year.
CCTV from The Dock hotel in Canberra from that evening has now played before two courts, and on Network Seven’s Spotlight program, and clearly shows Mr Lehrmann drinking beer and conversing with Ms Higgins while doing so.
CCTV shows Mr Lehrmann and Ms Higgins drinking together at The Dock hotel in Canberra on the night of the alleged sexual assault
Ms Higgins and Mr Lehrmann are captured on CCTV walking into the Minister’s office
The footage hadn’t played on television or in the Federal Court when the deed was signed, but it was played during Mr Lehrmann’s criminal trial two months prior and widely reported in the media.
She also hadn’t properly detailed how she got from nightclub 88mph to a Taxi or an Uber with Mr Lehrmann in the early hours of March 23, 2019 – she has largely maintained she didn’t remember because she was intoxicated.
According to the settlement, she ‘decided she needed to go home’, so Mr Lehrmann walked her to the taxi and – ‘without agreement or invitation’ – he joined her and said they lived in the same direction.
Her evidence in court was more general in nature, stating they were with two other colleagues and it was decided among the group that the other two would share a cab because they lived in one direction, and Ms Higgins and Mr Lehrmann lived in the other.
The court has not heard that she pinned Mr Lehrmann as the reason they shared a taxi home, nor did she indicate that he ‘directed’ her to get out of the car once they arrived at Parliament House.
Bruce Lehrmann has launched a defamation case against Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson
She broke down on the witness stand last week when trying to explain why she got out of the car – she ultimately didn’t know why, but suggested it may have been an Uber with only one stop, so she had to get out.
The settlement claim goes on to say that Mr Lehrmann ‘led’ Ms Higgins to the ministerial suite and started looking for something.
Security footage, which Ms Higgins herself had seen when the deed was signed, clearly shows a security guard leading the pair up the hall and into the ministerial suite – the security guard is in front, Ms Higgins is behind her, and Mr Lehrmann is at the back.
Claims against Linda Reynolds and Fiona Brown
Ms Higgins settlement also details a number of claims against her former bosses, then-defence industry minister Linda Reynolds and her chief-of-staff Fiona Brown, and former employment minister Michaelia Cash.
Ms Reynolds and Ms Cash were excluded from being involved in mediation talks.
All three gave evidence at Mr Lehrmann’s criminal trial last year and denied failing to support Ms Higgins after she disclosed her rape allegations.
According to Ms Higgins’ version of events, as outlined in the settlement claim, she told Ms Reynolds and Ms Brown she was allegedly raped and they did very little to support her.
Ms Higgins claimed she was shown no support but managed to work up a smile when she had her photo taken with Ms Reynolds at a campaign dinner
‘Ms Brown made it clear by her words and demeanour that the events of 22/23 March 2019 must be put to one side and that [Ms Higgins] needed to remain silent about the sexual assault, in order to keep her job/career,’ the deed read.
‘In that context, [Ms Higgins] felt she had no choice but to abandon pursuit of the complaint of sexual assault with the AFP.’
She claimed Ms Brown didn’t ask if she wanted to report the incident to police, or if she needed legal advice.
Ms Brown became so emotional while on the witness stand during Mr Lehrmann’s criminal trial last year that she broke down and ran out of the courtroom crying.
She told the ACT Supreme Court that she had meetings with Mr Lehrmann and Ms Higgins on March 26 – four days after the alleged assault – to ask how the evening unfolded from their points of view, because their entry into Parliament House in the early hours of the morning triggered a security breach.
But Ms Brown claimed she didn’t hear about any rape allegations until two days after that, on the Thursday, when Ms Higgins was about to walk out the door following another meeting when she suddenly stopped.
Ms Brown told the court Ms Higgins turned around and said, ‘I remember him on top of me’.
She maintained that she tried to be supportive of Ms Higgins, whether she decided to report the alleged incident to police or not.
Ms Higgins also has the long-held belief that she was given an ultimatum after she disclosed her allegations to Ms Reynolds and Ms Brown – she could either go with the minister to Perth and help campaign for the forthcoming election, or she could go home to the Gold Coast and leave Canberra forever.
Five weeks after her alleged rape, Brittany Higgins sent Mr Dillaway selfies she took wearing the same white dress she wore the night she claims the incident occurred
The pictures were part of a tranche of documents released by the Federal Court as part Mr Lehrmann’s defamation action against Lisa Wilkinson and Network Ten
Ms Reynolds and Ms Brown both told a court that they did not give her an ‘ultimatum’, but she did have the option of going to Perth – so she went.
According to the deed, Ms Higgins was ‘required to mostly work in her own hotel room, seven days a week for six weeks’ – which appears to be new information.
In the Federal Court on Thursday, Ms Higgins’ ex-boyfriend Ben Dillaway was questioned about a series of texts she sent him while she was in Perth, in April and May 2019.
In each text, Ms Higgins appeared to be enjoying her time in Perth – working with colleagues and, at one stage, putting a local press release together.
Mr Lehrmann’s barrister Steven WhybrownSC put to Mr Dillaway that Ms Higgins sent more positive messages than negative ones.
‘I want to suggest to you that throughout this period, Ms Higgins has consistently indicated to you that she was spending time with Linda Reynolds, she was hyped, her whole life was great and things of that nature,’ he said.
Mr Dillaway said he had believed her mood was ‘up and down like the surf’ – saying she appeared ‘elated’ at times, and down at others – but he conceded the texts were likely more accurate than his recollection.
The deed also says Ms Reynolds did not engage with her at all during the election campaign, but a photo tendered to two courts showed Ms Higgins sitting next to Ms Reynolds at her birthday in Perth – wearing the same dress she alleged she was raped in.
Claims against Michaelia Cash
The document also says Ms Cash expressed the importance of ‘not talking to anyone about the [alleged] sexual assault, especially the media’.
‘Members of Minister Cash’s office, including Minister Cash herself on November 10 2020, began by ‘checking in’ on [Ms Higgins] but only out of concern that she might speak to the press.’
In court last year, Ms Cash denied knowing about any sexual assault allegations prior to February 5, 2021 – the day Ms Higgins quit her job.
Michaelia Cash and Brittany Higgins are pictured together
Prosecutor Shane Drumgold grilled her about whether she knew about the alleged rape or not, and put to her that she was denying any knowledge ‘because it would politically embarrassing’.
Ms Cash replied: ‘Absolutely not … I don’t understand the political connection to this.’
Mr Drumgold continued: ‘I’m suggesting, as early as October 2019, that Ms Higgins had a conversations about the sexual element of what she said happened to her in Senator Reynolds’ office.’
Ms Cash replied: ‘Not a sexual element. The first time she mentioned that was in a conversation on February 5, 2021.’
The claim also accuses Ms Cash of telling Ms Higgins to ‘suck it up’ when she said it was difficult entering the workplace through the ministerial entrance, where she entered the building with Mr Lehrmann on the night of the alleged assault.
‘Unable to work’
The bulk of the $2.4million payment was for about 40 years worth of lost wages.
The deed says: ‘Apart from one day, the claimant has not worked since February 8, 2021.’
‘The claimant has been diagnosed as medically unfit for any form of employment and has been given a very poor prognosis for future employment.’
Daily Mail Australia previously revealed Ms Higgins landed a job at Victoria’s First People’s Assembly in February 2021 – after she quit her job in Parliament House.
It is unclear if that is included in the single day she worked after February 8, but Ms Higgins also landed a $325,000 book deal with Penguin Random House the following month.
She got an advance worth $108,000 at the time, and was promised the rest upon completion.
The book, tentatively titled #notjustadaughter, was drafted but has been shelved due to legal proceedings.