Prime Minister Scott Morrison declines to promise that he would publish an investigation into what his office knew about the accusation that she was assaulted in a ministerial office by former staffer Brittany Higgins.
Phil Gaetjens, Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, is investigating which workers in the Office of the Prime Minister (PMO) were informed of the accusation of attack.
Tomorrow, Ms Higgins will meet with police to detail her claims of being assaulted by a male colleague in March 2019 inside the office of then-defence industry minister Linda Reynolds.
“I haven’t said I won’t [release it],” Mr Morrison said.
“I’ve simply said I’m waiting for Phil to provide that report [and] I’ll give further advice once I receive it.”
Mr Morrison consistently claimed that his office had first heard of the allegations of rape just days before they had been released.
But Ms Higgins said that in November 2020, a staff member in the office of Mr Morrison reached out to “check in on her”
Text messages collected by the ABC and first published by The Australian reportedly show a former contractor telling Ms Higgins that in April 2019 he had spoken to the Office of the Prime Minister.
In the past week, as a result of Ms Higgins’ accusations, Mr Morrison has announced four inquiries.
One of those investigations was to be carried out by a former university vice chancellor, Liberal backbencher Celia Hammond, who was charged with looking into the atmosphere within the Coalition.
It was also going to look at Parliament House’s wider corporate culture issues, and what could be done to put it in line with other institutions.
But on Tuesday, Mr Morrison said the inquiry would not continue.
Instead, he said, the Cabinet Minister Simon Birmingham is working to build will be rolled into a wider parliamentary inquiry.
He said Ms Hammond, who collaborated with MP Anne Webster of the Nationals, proposed that the Coalition’s analysis be part of the larger multi-party inquiry.
“I agreed with that, and our leadership agreed with that,” Mr Morrison said.
Mr Gaetjens was the chief of staff of Mr Morrison when he was treasurer.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the Gaetjens report should be publicly published, of course.
He added that, as Mr Morrison should be able to ask his staff what they knew and when, there should not even need to be a report.
The Greens said the results of the Gaetjens inquiry must be published by the Prime Minister.
“What a joke,” Greens deputy leader Larissa Waters said.
“Yet another internal review, by a guy that used to be the chief of staff for the Prime Minister.
“This is absolutely the fox in charge of the hen house. No-one has any confidence that this review will be a comprehensive one.”