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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is standing by one of his closest political allies, declaring his absolute confidence Finance Minister Katy Gallagher did not mislead parliament over her knowledge of Brittany Higgins’ alleged rape.
In a June 4, 2021 Senate hearing, former defence minister Linda Reynolds suggested that senior Labor MPs including Gallagher and the now Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, had been tipped off ahead of time that Higgins would allege she had been raped by a fellow former staffer to the minister, Bruce Lehrmann.
Prime MinisterAnthony Albanese says Finance Minister Katy Gallagher did not mislead parliament over her knowledge of Brittany Higgins’ alleged rape.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
Lehrmann has always denied the allegations and his trial was aborted because of juror misconduct.
Wong and Gallagher both denied that claim by Reynolds, with Gallagher firing back at Reynolds: “No-one had any knowledge. How dare you? It’s all about protecting yourself.”
But leaked text messages between Higgins and her partner, David Sharaz, obtained by The Australian, suggest that Gallagher had been made aware of the rape allegations by Sharaz on February 11 – four days before they were aired for the first time on Network Ten’s The Project and published by News.com.au on February 15, 2021.
In one of the messages, Sharaz says to Higgins that Gallagher is “really invested” in the story and that “Katy is going to come to me with some questions you need to prepare for”.
Other texts between Sharaz and Higgins suggest that Sharaz was in direct contact with Albanese and that the prime minister gave his phone number to Sharaz on April 21, to organise a meeting with Higgins.
Albanese and former prime minister Scott Morrison both met Higgins in Sydney on April 23, 2021.
Environment minister Tanya Plibersek also features in messages between Sharaz and Higgins on May 5, 2021, as someone they should approach with information that Morrison’s former chief of staff, John Kunkel, had approached Higgins to discuss her rape allegations.
While the text messages suggest that Sharaz was contacting Albanese, Gallagher and Plibersek they do not show whether they replied or what they said in response.
On Friday morning, Albanese said “no” when asked if Gallagher had misled parliament.
“What is being suggested here by Peter Dutton, you had allegations by a Liberal staffer that another Liberal staffer had a sexual assault in a Liberal minister’s office and somehow Katy Gallagher has some responsibility for what was going on here? This is bizarre,” he said.
“You had a circumstance also where Scott Morrison had an enquiry by Phil Gaetjens, his former chief of staff who was then the head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet into who knew what in his own office. We still have never, ever seen that report.”
“She [Gallagher] is a great minister, she is a great finance minister, and she is a great minister for the status of women.”
Deputy opposition leader Sussan Ley said on Friday Gallagher appeared to know about the rape allegations before they were aired publicly which meant she may have misled parliament in the June 2021 Senate hearing.
“It looks like Katy Gallagher has misled parliament about what she knew and when she knew it. And this is a serious problem; she is part of Anthony Albanese’s leadership team,” Ley said.
“Anthony Albanese sought to unequivocally assure Australians that the finance minister didn’t mislead the parliament. But on what basis does he claim this? If it’s that simple, why doesn’t the finance minister just clearly step the public through the process and the timeline?”
“We have only heard one side of the story through these text messages. But that’s because the other side – the Finance Minister – refuses to front up and take any questions.”
Gallagher’s office was contacted for comment.
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