Deeply sorry Defence Minister Linda Reynolds breaks down in the Senate
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has broken down in the Senate and was unable to continue as questions continue to swirl over the Federal Government’s response to Brittany Higgins’ alleged rape.
Ms Higgins, a former Liberal staffer, alleged she was raped by a male staffer in Ms Reynolds’ ministerial office in the early hours of March 23, 2019.
Ms Reynolds was Defence Industry Minister at the time of the alleged sexual assault.
During Question Time in the Senate today, the Western Australian Senator became emotional as she said she was deeply sorry Ms Higgins didn’t feel supported.
At one point she became so overcome with emotion she was unable to respond to questions unrelated to the alleged incident.
“If I… could ask, Mr President,” she said before taking a moment.
“If I could have indulgence to answer this on Monday? I think I’d be in a better position to answer this one Monday.
“If… can you just give me a minute. Or can I take it on notice?”
It was revealed yesterday a steam-cleaning of Ms Reynolds’ office was ordered by the Department of Finance in the hours after Ms Higgins’ alleged rape.
The incident, first reported by news.com.au, has been confirmed by 9News but conflicting statements have been given by two departments.
Today, the Australian Federal Police released a statement confirming a senior member of the AFP met with Ms Reynolds and her chief-of-staff on 4 April 2019 in relation to Ms Higgins’ allegations.
“The AFP has engaged with the Department of Parliamentary Services and Presiding Officers a number of times,” the statement said.
“The matter is an open investigation and further commentary could be prejudicial. The AFP will not be making further comment on this matter.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison today used Question Time to respond to comments made by Ms Higgins yesterday in which she accused him of victim blaming.
“I’m very sorry she feels that way Mr Speaker. She must be under tremendous stress,” Mr Morrison said.
“She has shown great bravery. I have been listening to what she has been saying and Mr Speaker, I am seeking to put in place arrangements whether it is the support of staff who are here in this building here and now, and will be feeling, I think, increasingly fragile or vulnerable because of the nature of these events that have arisen this week.”