Brittany Higgins responds to 'lying cow' comment from Linda Reynolds
The Prime Minister has confirmed Linda Reynolds called Brittany Higgins 'a lying cow' and says she 'deeply regretted' the shocking comments.
Brittany Higgins has responded to reports Defence Minister Linda Reynolds called her a "lying cow," saying it is evidence of the "toxic workplace culture" at Parliament House.
Ms Higgins, a former Liberal staffer, came forward last month with allegations she was raped in Senator Reynolds' office by a colleague in 2019.
Today, reported the defence minister, who is currently on medical leave, made the remark in front of staffers on the day Ms Higgins went public with her allegations.
"The comments made by Minister Reynolds are incredibly hurtful,'' Ms Higgins said in a statement.
"I appreciate that it has been a stressful time but that sort of behaviour and language is never excusable.
"It's just further evidence of the toxic workplace culture that exists behind closed doors in Parliament House."
Earlier, Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended Senator Reynolds saying she regrets the comments and the last few weeks had been "traumatic" for many people, resulting in high tensions.
"She has deeply regretted them, she made them in a private office," Mr Morrison said.
"She immediately apologised.
"She apologised to the staff about making what were inappropriate comments, long before it became public."
The prime minister said Ms Reynolds "deeply regrets" the "offensive remarks".
"They say things that sometimes they deeply regret," he said.
"I'm sure that all of you have found yourself, at a time of frustration, perhaps saying things you regret.
"And I would simply ask you, given the comment was made in a private place, that you offer the same generosity to how you perceive something you might have said, and perhaps apply the same standard to Linda Reynolds who, at the time, was under significant stress."
Mr Morrison condemned the remarks.
"She should never have made them," Mr Morrison said.
"I don't condone them, but what matters is that we continue to address the substance of the issues here, as we are."
In a statement sent out late last night, Senator Reynolds did not dispute using the term, but sought to clarify the context of her insult.
"I have never questioned Ms Higgins' account of her alleged sexual assault and have always sought to respect her agency in this matter," she said.
"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."
Senator Reynolds was hospitalised a week ago with a pre-existing medical condition after Ms Higgins came forward to say she had been raped in the Defence Minister's office in Parliament House.
She remains on sick leave.
Independent MP Zali Steggall said she was "shocked" to read the reports about Senator Reynolds.
"That's incredibly disappointing and inappropriate of Linda Reynolds and the minister should know better," she told Today.
"I think it makes her position all the more untenable."
The alleged sexual assault took place in March 2019 and Ms Higgins went public with her claim last month.
"Ms Higgins' allegations are very serious and that is how they must be treated to ensure her legal rights are protected," Senator Reynolds said.
"I welcome her decision to progress this matter with the Australian Federal Police."
Ms Higgins said she was raped by a senior Liberal staffer in Parliament House.
Another three women have made allegations against the unnamed man.