Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has sensationally revealed that he was tipped off about the alleged rape at Parliament House on February 11 by the AFP commissioner Reece Kershaw – 24 hours before news.com.au lodged questions on the incident.
Mr Dutton, who is himself a former drug squad cop, told Parliament that he had also been given further briefings last week and again this week on how the case was progressing.
The Prime Minister has consistently maintained that his office didn’t know about the allegation until news.com.au contacted his media team for comment at 2:30pm on Friday, February 12.
However, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds knew in March, 2019 and didn’t tell him and the Employment Minister Michaelia Cash learned on February 5, 2021 in an exit interview and also didn’t tell him.
“As I’ve stated in the house previously, as far as I’m aware, the only minister who had knowledge of an alleged sexual assault in relation to this matter was Minister Reynolds,’’ Mr Morrison told Parliament today.
However, not long after he gave that answer in question time today Mr Dutton dropped the bombshell news that he was alerted on February 11.
“Was advised on 11 February and I received updates last week and this week,” he replied.
Mr Dutton‘s press secretary Nicole Chant has refused to answer questions or return calls on when he knew for 24 hours prior to Mr Dutton offering his 14-word response in question time.
He did not explain why the AFP commissioner chose to alert him on that day or whether the AFP knew journalists were working on a story.
However, news.com.au has confirmed that Ms Higgins attended a police station in Canberra seven days before the questions were lodged with the Prime Minister’s office and suggested to police that because she was leaving her job she might go public with her story. This is one reason why the AFP may have known a story was coming.
The mystery over why they tipped off Mr Dutton about the possibility of a media story but did not tip him off in 2019 over a two-week sexual assault investigation of a rape in Parliament when Ms Higgins first spoke to police in 2019 is not clear.
Scott Morrison has previously told Parliament that nobody in his office alerted him to the looming scandal throughout the weekend as his chief of staff, principal private secretary and another staffer Fiona Brown who previously worked in Defence Minister Linda Reynold‘s office and knew about the alleged rape.
He warned Labor today they should not forget that allegations of sexual harassment are not confined to the Liberal Party.
“Once again, the leader of the opposition can come to this dispatch box and he can seek to state these matters and seek to pointscore on them but the issue that is here is the issue that we all must address,‘’ he said.
“These as we know, are not confined to any one side of politics in this building. We know this to be the case.”
In Parliament, Labor‘s Tanya Plibersek said it was a cover up.
“This minister is running I don’t ask don’t tell of cover-ups,‘’ she said.
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds remains on medical leave after a cardiologist ordered her to be admitted to hospital on Tuesday night.
In the Senate, her friend and housemate Senator Jane Hume blamed Labor for the pre-existing condition shouting across the dispatch box “Haven’t you done enough!” and Labor’s Penny Wong as she wished Senator Reynolds a speedy recovery.