Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has reached a legal settlement to pay an undisclosed sum to her former staffer Brittany Higgins, after calling her a “lying cow”.
Reynolds, who is on medical leave, in a Friday statement retracted the comment and “unreservedly” apologised to Higgins, whose allegation she was raped by a colleague in Reynolds’ office in 2019 is being investigated by police.
Reynolds made the remark to her staff on February 15. It referred not to Higgins’ allegation of rape but to her claim she was not adequately supported afterwards.
Reynolds said she had already publicly apologised to Higgins. “I wish to further address that comment that I made. I did not mean it in the sense it may have been understood.
“Given that the comment was made public, which I never intended, I also want to retract it and unreservedly apologise to Brittany Higgins and acknowledge the hurt and distress it caused to her.”
Reynolds, not the taxpayer, is footing her bill.
Higgins said she accepted Reynolds’ apology.
“Any monies I have received from the Minister as part of my settlement of my claim against her (over and above my legal costs) will be paid in full to an organisation that provides counselling and support to survivors of sexual assault and abuse in the Canberra area,” she said.
“These funds will assist them in this important work.”
She did not named the organisation but she was assisted by the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre.
“This has been an immensely challenging period for me and I wish to reiterate that the only reason I have chosen to come forward is to help others,” Higgins said.
Meanwhile, a former boyfriend of the woman who accused Attorney-General Christian Porter of historical rape – which he strongly denies – has said he had “relevant discussions” with both the woman and Porter.
James Hooke, senior managing director at Macquarie Group, said he was willing to co-operate with an independent inquiry. He said he had been referred to in the woman’s unsworn statement and her diary extracts.
In a statement on Friday, Hooke spoke of the now deceased woman as “my very dear friend” and expressed concern for her family. He also said he was “concerned for the well-being of Christian Porter”.
“I have known all of them for approximately 30 years. We all find ourselves at a very upsetting time.”
He said he had “what I consider to be clear recollections of relevant discussions I had with Kate over the years from mid-1988 until her death [last year].
“I also have what I consider to be clear recollections of relevant discussions I had with Christian Porter from April 1992 in Perth and through the mid-1990s.”
He did not specify any detail of these recollections.
Hooke said he supported an inquiry into the “important non-criminal aspects of this matter” and was willing to testify under oath at any appropriately-convened inquiry.