For those who have just sat down at their desk this morning and want to get up to date on the reports that defence minister Linda Raynolds called alleged rape victim and former staffer Brittany Higgins a “lying cow”, Guardian political editor Katharine Murphy has the full story.
You can read her report here:
It looks as though Victorian premier Daniel Andrews and the minister for mental health James Merlino will stand up for a press conference at 9am.
The Victorian government has been working hard to save face this week after a damning royal commission report into the state’s mental health system was released, basically calling for the current system to burnt to the ground and rebuilt from the ashes. (I’m exaggerating, but only slightly.)
The government had already began renewed investment into the sector in the last budget so has been working to fast-track projects this week.
Given that Merlino will be there today, perhaps there are more announcements on the way? I’ll bring you updates from that press conference soon.
While Cyclone Niran has been upgraded to a category three intensity storm, cyclone warnings have been cancelled for north Queensland as it edges further away from shore.
Cairns and surrounding areas have been battered by damaging winds and flash floods this week, with banana crops destroyed and thousands of homes left temporarily without power.
Josh Frydenberg is making the media rounds this morning. He was meant to be taking a victory lap celebrating the Australian economy’s bounce-back, with the release of the new GDP figures.
But, given the events of the past week, that is clearly not how his interviews have played out.
Here is part of his interview with Lisa Millar on ABC News Breakfast:
Last time you were on the program, Michael asked you whether you believed Brittany Higgins, do you still believe her?
I mean, in terms of what has happened to Brittany Higgins, I absolutely do believe her but the point being those matters are in the hands of the police where they need to be but again, every victim of sexual assault needs to have their voice heard and needs to feel comfortable in actually putting their case.
But it’s not for me to really say whether I believe one person or another, these issues are very serious criminal matters and it’s up to the police to ascertain the voracity of the facts in question.
Do you believe Christian Porter?
The same applies there. My answer is the same, which is that it’s up to the police to ascertain the voracity of the facts in that particular case.
The police are the only body, Lisa, who are authorised to deal with such serious criminal matters and, in the case of the New South Wales police, they have spoken, said the matter is closed.
Yesterday yes saw an emphatic denial [from] Christian Porter at his press conference and in his statement in the glare of the nation’s media and the glare of the Australian public.
He’s entitled to the presumption of innocence as any citizen is entitled to and he has the prime minister’s support and he has my support.
Zali Steggall has also thrown her weight behind calls for an independent inquiry into the historical rape allegations levelled against Christian Porter (allegations he vehemently denies):
I think the Australian public deserves to know exactly what is the case. What evidence is there?
We have a situation where very sadly the alleged victim is no longer able to put forward her version of events. We need to know is there any corroborating evidence? What are the facts so that we can clearly assess the weight of the allegations?
The difficulty is the person involved, the attorney general, is a person that holds the highest legal position in the land. We are lawmakers. We have to have the Australian public satisfied that he is a fit and proper person to be in that role.
Federal NSW independent Zali Steggall has told the Today show she was shocked to hear defence minister Linda Reynolds reportedly described her staffer Brittany Higgins, who alleged she was raped by a colleague, as a “lying cow”:
I was rather shocked to read that. That’s incredibly disappointing and inappropriate of Linda Reynolds and the minister should know better.
I think it makes her position all the more untenable. I think there’s serious questions around her handling of the situation for Brittany Higgins, what happened in 2019.
And these comments, if correct, would show a real issue in terms of appreciating the importance and the bravery for Brittany Higgins in coming out.
Reynolds responded in a statement on Wednesday night, saying she had never questioned Higgins’ account but did not specifically deny making the remark.
AAP says it’s understood the minister took issue at the suggestion she did not offer Higgins proper pastoral care after she was told about the rape.
Senate opposition leader Penny Wong is speaking to Radio National now.
I’ll bring you the full comments soon but, in broad terms, she has said questions about integrity will hang over the government’s head unless there is an independent investigation into the historical rape allegation against Christian Porter.
She was also asked about allegations levelled several years ago against Bill Shorten but says they are “very different” and aren’t comparable.
Shorten was accused of raping a woman in the 1980s but Victorian police said in 2014 that they had investigated and there was “was no reasonable prospect of conviction”, and closed the investigation.
More from treasurer Josh Frydenberg:
He insisted on Sky news this morning that the historical rape allegations against Christian Porter were finished after the attorney general emphatically denied the claims:
The matter is at an end because the police have spoken …
It’s the police whose judgment and whose decision is the most important here …
Christian Porter has emphatically denied the events and he’s entitled to the presumption of innocence.
But this issue isn’t just falling along party lines. The Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce supported an inquiry, suggesting to ABC radio that it could end the “demeaning” speculation on social media:
I believe some form of external inquiry would be a vastly better alternative than what we’re seeing.
Treasurer and deputy Liberal leader Josh Frydenberg has appeared on Sky News this morning and has been asked about reports that defence minister Linda Raynolds called alleged rape victim and former staffer Brittany Higgins a “lying cow”.
It seems he wouldn’t be drawn on if the language was unacceptable.
Although Reynolds hasn’t confirmed she said “lying cow”, her statement in response to media reports did not deny it.
Let’s talk about those Buckingham Palace bullying allegations for a second.
Ben Quinn, Archie Bland and Caroline Davies have the coverage:
Buckingham Palace is to investigate allegations of bullying against the Duchess of Sussex by former royal staff member, it announced on Wednesday, as relations between members of the royal family appeared to descend to new lows.
In a highly unusual statement, the palace said it was “very concerned” by a report in the Times of claims that Meghan had driven out two personal assistants during her time as a working royal, while Kensington Palace staff had been “humiliated” on several occasions.
You can read the full report below:
Good morning, Matilda Boseley to take you through the news today and the fallout from the Christian Porter press conference.
Before I jump in, I just want to acknowledge how tough yesterday has been for so many groups of people, with Grace Tame’s amazing speech, the Porter saga, and defence chief Angus Campbell’s comments about young cadets needing to avoid making themselves vulnerable to sexual assault.
If you found it particularly hard, or are even just feeling a bit “blah” this morning make sure you reach out to people or even think about calling the Australia crisis support service Lifeline on 13 11 14.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au
This morning defence minister Linda Reynolds has not denied reports that she called her former staffer Brittany Higgins a “lying cow” the day she went public with allegations that she was raped by a male colleague in Reynolds’ office and did not receive adequate support from the minister or government.
According to the Australian Reynolds made the comment in the open part of her office and was heard by several staff members, including public servants on secondment from the Department of Defence.
In a statement, Reynolds said she did make some comments expressing her feelings that media reports misrepresented some parts of the situation:
A report in The Australian attributed some remarks to me regarding the very serious allegations made by my former staff member, Ms Brittany Higgins.
I have never questioned Ms Higgins’ account of her alleged sexual assault and have always sought to respect her agency in this matter.
I did however comment on news reports regarding surrounding circumstances that I felt had been misrepresented.
I have consistently respected Ms Higgins’ agency and privacy and said this is her story to tell and no one else’s.
Ms Higgins’ allegations are very serious and that is how they must be treated to ensure her legal rights are protected. I welcome her decision to progress this matter with the Australian Federal Police.
Reynolds is off work sick and isn’t expected to be back until next Monday, but the minister is already facing questions about the viability of her position given the handling of the alleged rape case.
Some other things to look out for:
- Senior government ministers are standing behind attorney general Christian Porter’s decision not to step down after he was accused of a historical rape, an allegation he vehemently denies. Porter says resigning, would mean the “would be no rule of law” and would set a precedent that “any person in Australia can lose their career, their job, their life’s work, based on nothing more than an accusation that appears in print”. He says he does not support an independent inquiry for similar reasons. NSW police this week ended a criminal investigation into the allegations due to a lack of admissible evidence to proceed, partially because the alleged victim has since died.
- SA coroner David Whittle has asked SA police to further investigate the death of this woman, who took her own life in the state in 2020. Police had provided the coroner with a case file on Monday but the investigation was found to be “incomplete”, Whittle said. He noted the need to gather further information on allegations contained in recent media reports. He said he would determine whether to hold an inquest, once the investigation is complete.
- Prominent scientists are calling for the release of convicted NSW child killer Kathleen Folbigg. She was jailed in 2003 for murdering her children Patrick, Sarah and Laura, and for the manslaughter of her son Caleb, but a petition signed by 90 eminent scientists says important scientific and medical discoveries have since been made, pointing to evidence that the children died from natural causes.
- Buckingham Palace says it will investigate allegations of bullying made by former staff of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. This follows a Times article claiming that former staff of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were bullied out of their jobs.
- Australia politics live: questions surround timing of AFP decision to notify Dutton of alleged rape
- Australia news live: government under fire over handling of rape allegations as voters lose trust
- Australia politics live: Victoria reports two new local Covid cases
- Australia news live: Facebook to restore Australian news pages; Labor pursues Morrison over Craig Kelly resignation