Opposition leader Peter Dutton has demanded Prime Minister Anthony Albanese ‘be honest’ over his dealings with Brittany Higgins and her boyfriend David Sharaz after explosive text messages revealed the pair plotting to recruit the help of Labour MPs.
The Prime Minister, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek and Finance Minister Katy Gallagher have all fiercely denied colluding with Ms Higgins while in Opposition to ‘weaponise’ the accusations and damage Scott Morrison’s Coalition government.
Now Mr Dutton had told the PM to come clean and reveal all about his relationship with the pair.
‘The Prime Minister obviously has to front up and provide a true factual explanation of what’s going on here because there are different accounts,’ Mr Dutton said.
‘Until we know the facts, we won’t know the answers to all the questions that need to be answered and the Prime Minister and others given different statements at different points.
‘It seems that some of that may be conflicting now. So I think the prime minister just needs to be honest.’
On Thursday, the PM hit back at the suggestions and insisted: ‘I have absolute confidence in Senator Gallagher.
‘I did not meet Brittany Higgins until I met her publicly when she met with Scott Morrison. I had not met Brittany Higgins until Scott Morrison did.’
The PM refused to be drawn into questions about the case being referred to the National Anti-Corruption Commission, adding: ‘The Commission is independent of politics.’
He refused to take further questions about Ms Higgins and walked out of the press conference about the new airport in Western Sydney
Leaked text messages between Ms Higgins and Mr Sharaz reveal the couple plotted to enlist the help of key political figures and ‘favoured’ reporters to push the line that her allegations had been ‘covered up’ by the government, The Australian reported.
New leaked text messages between Brittany Higgins and her fiancé David Sharaz (pictured together) appear to suggest that Anthony Albanese and other Labor heavyweights had ‘direct contact’ with the couple as part of a plot to publicise her alleged sexual assault inside Parliament House
The messages reveal Mr Sharaz set up a meeting with Ms Higgins and Mr Albanese, then leader of the opposition.
In the messages, Ms Higgins called Mr Morrison a ‘c***’ and vowed he would be ‘f***ed over’.
Now Karl Stefanovic and prominent Independent MP Dai Le have piled the pressure on the prime minister over the text messages.
The Today host said the texts ‘appear pretty damning’ and branded the situation as ‘very messy’, asked independent MP Dai Le if Mr Albanese was ‘in the clear’.
She replied: ‘I don’t think he is in the clear and obviously they were advocating for this case a lot.
Independent MP Dai Le (pictured) told Today host Karl Stefanovic that she did not think Anthony Albanese was in the clear over the leaked text messages and said ‘somebody has to answer for it’
‘I think if there’s a political involvement – it’s been politicised, it’s been weaponised and we’ve got distracted away from what the issue is.
‘But… if they’ve used this to weaponise the other side, somebody has to answer for it.’
Stefanovic asked Ms Le if she would like to see more ‘accountability and openness’ over the taxpayer-funded payout Ms Higgins received, believed to be in the region of $3million.
‘Absolutely,’ Ms Le replied, before adding that most things take a long time to be approved in government so it was unusual that such a large payment could apparently be approved so fast.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (pictured) has fiercely denied colluding with Ms Higgins while in Opposition to ‘weaponise’ the accusations and damage Scott Morrison’s Coalition government
‘You would want to ask how come it happened so quickly in this instance when everything else is so slow (at getting approved),’ Ms Le said.
Senator Linda Reynolds has signalled she plans to flag the settlement to the new federal anti-corruption commission, saying the speed of the process raises concerns about ‘fairness’.
Former Liberal Party staffer Ms Higgins alleges that Bruce Lehrmann sexually assaulted her in Liberal Party Senator Reynolds’ office in the early hours of March 23, 2019. Mr Lehrmann strongly denies the allegation.
On April 16, 2021, two months after Ms Higgins’ claims were made public, Mr Sharaz texted Ms Higgins saying: ‘So Albo gave me his number – he just came in to do the breakfast show – and says if you meet with Scomo to let him know and he’ll fly to Canberra to be there if you want to meet with him too.’
Ms Higgins replied: ‘For sure. I have no qualms meeting with Albo.’
Just six days later, Mr Sharaz wrote: ‘Friday 9am with Albo locked in at CPO. Details to come… Tanya [Plibersek] too.’
When asked whether Ms Higgins approached him to help her cause, Mr Albanese on Tuesday simply said ‘no’. Ms Plibersek has also rejected the claims.
It is understood Ms Higgins was furious with the then Prime Minister Mr Morrison after hearing whispers his office had been ‘backgrounding’ against her.
‘He’s about to be f***ed over. Just wait. We’ve got him,’ she wrote to Mr Sharaz on March 26, 2021.
Mr Sharaz also made a made critical comments about Mr Morrison.
‘I still hate the c…’ he wrote.
Senator Reynolds (pictured with Scott Morrison in 2019) said she plans to flag the settlement to the new federal anti-corruption commission, saying the speed of the process raises concerns about ‘fairness’.
The trove of texts shed light on their plans to ‘feed’ information to Senator Gallagher so she could fire off questions about the government’s handling of the case and alleged cover-up during an estimates hearing.
The development comes after Mr Sharaz was found to have named-dropped Senator Gallagher in an audio clip revealed by Daily Mail Australia.
Just two weeks before the accusation of sexual assault was aired on The Project in February 2021, Mr Sharaz asked host Lisa Wilkinson if she knew any ‘friendly MPs’ who could lob questions at the then-Liberal government during question time.
‘Oh, certainly Albo,’ Ms Wilkinson said in response, adding: ‘Tanya Plibersek, definitely.’
Mr Sharaz told Ms Wilkinson and network producer Angus Llewellyn: ‘I have a friend in Labor, Katy Gallagher on the Labor side, who will probe and continue it going.
‘So sitting week, the story comes out, they have to answer questions at Question Time, it’s a mess for them.’
Ms Gallagher has vehemently denied having any knowledge of the allegation against Mr Lehrmann before it was made public or that she asked questions on behalf of the couple.
The Labor heavyweight has also denied having any role in green-lighting the estimated $3million compensation payout to Ms Higgins that was signed off by the government in December last year.
On Sunday night, in an exclusive interview with Bruce Lehrmann, the Seven Network aired never-before-seen security footage of Parliament House from the night of the alleged assault (pictured)
Senator Reynolds on Wednesday said she plans to flag the settlement to the new federal anti-corruption commission, saying the speed of the process raises concerns about ‘fairness’.
Four days before Ms Higgins’ allegations went public Mr Sharaz wrote of how Senator Gallagher was ‘really invested’ in the saga.
‘Katy Gallagher messaged me. She’s angry and wants to help. She’s got the context. Says they knew something was wrong because they fired Bruce and not you. They avoided a scandal,’ he wrote to Ms Higgins.
‘I gave her [The Project] interview for context. I hope that’s okay? She’s not doing anything with it. But I’m also happy to step out and let her talk to you if you want. Basically, I wanted her to get all the context because it’s so complicated.’
Ms Higgins replied: ‘That’s fine. It’ll all be public pretty soon anyway haha.’
Conservation about Senator Gallagher continued on March 18, 2021 with the couple growing concerned about the PM’s backgrounding.
‘You may as well feed everything you have to Katy,’ Ms Higgins told Mr Sharaz on March 18.
‘The sooner we can nip it in the bud the better. Especially if we can call them out by name,’ Ms Higgins wrote in the hope the Senator may be able to raise the subject in the Upper House.
Mr Sharaz replied: I’ve texted Katy and SHY (Green Senator Sarah Hanson Young).
The couple also spoke about rallying journalists and media figures to their cause after Mr Morrison’s chief of staff John Kunkel, who they blamed for backgrounding against them, made contact.
‘Should we get Katy Gallagher’s advice re kunkel? She’s pretty savage politically haha,’ Mr Sharaz wrote to Ms Higgins on May 5, 2021.
He then suggest giving the media a ‘drop’ of information before Ms Higgins said: ‘He’ll just deny he confirmed anything. These meetings are more in their interest than ours. I’ll just brief it out to Tanya and get her advice.’
Mr Lehrmann’s pleaded not guilty to raping Ms Higgins at his criminal trial in October last year.
The case however was abandoned after a jury member brought unauthorised material to the jury room.
A second trial was set to go ahead in February but the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold discontinued the matter citing the ‘significant and unacceptable’ risk to Ms Higgins’ mental health.
The handling of the case by the Australian Federal Police and Department of Public Prosecutions in now under review by an independent inquiry.