Internal federal police guidelines suggest that at the time Higgins and Reynolds spoke to police, officers were compelled to alert the home affairs minister “at the earliest opportunity” to any “politically sensitive” matter – unless there was a clear conflict of interest in doing so.
Politically sensitive matters include an investigation likely to be of “particular interest” to MPs, the government, or the media. The alleged rape of a staffer by her co-worker in a minister’s office would have met this threshold.
The guidelines also apply to matters still in their early stages, which had been referred to the AFP but were not yet the subject of a full investigation.
The defence minister, Linda Reynolds, will argue the risk of conflict in the Indo-Pacific region “is far less remote than in the past”.
Reynolds will address the National Press Club in Canberra today, amid intense pressure over whether she and her office showed appropriate duty of care to Brittany Higgins after she alleged she was raped by a more senior colleague in Parliament House in 2019.
The minister is set to focus on the defence portfolio in her prepared remarks, including the increasing competition between the US and China in the Indo-Pacific region, building on the themes in last year’s defence strategic update:
This is multiplying potential flashpoints and ratcheting up geopolitical tensions, and with that, comes an increased risk of conflict. We are seeing military modernisation, accelerating technological advances and the use of coercive tactics. Tactics that are increasingly exploiting the grey area between peace and war. Tactics that are also challenging Australia’s interests in new ways. All of these challenges together mean we are contending with a more complex, a more dynamic and a more volatile strategic landscape.
Reynolds doesn’t name the country or countries that she sees as using coercive tactics in the version of her speech distributed to media in advance, but it comes amid growing tensions with China. She says Australia is “not alone” in wanting an Indo-Pacific region that is “peaceful, stable, inclusive, sovereign, prosperous and resilient”.
Reynolds will also say the future of the region is being shaped by many countries’ interests, and while Australia will work closely with the US, “it is clear that no single nation can address the strategic and technological challenges ahead alone”.
Reynolds will say that in the years ahead Australia will require “courage to call out behaviours and activities contrary to our nation’s sovereign interests”, and nations must be ready “to stand together when our shared interests are threatened”.
We’ve made it to Wednesday and while these last two weeks have felt like a decade, we still a ways to go.
Linda Reynolds will deliver a speech to the National Press Club come lunch time, where she will make the case that Australia needs to build up its defence forces to respond to growing military risks in the Pacific.
It’ll also be the first time she has faced questions from journalists since her former staffer, Brittany Higgins told her story.
Reynolds had to make a correction to the Senate yesterday after saying there had been two meetings with the AFP (there had been one) and then having to review her “recollections” in order to answer properly. There will be more questions today, although Reynolds maintains she supported Higgins at all times, once she learnt of the allegations.
It won’t be a comfortable watch, but still, if you get a chance, tune in and we’ll keep you updated.
The fallout from Craig Kelly’s decision to quit the Liberal party and sit as an independent continues, with Barnaby Joyce making the case for Kelly to join the Nationals (and give him one more number for the leadership). Kelly says he won’t and has vowed to maintain supply for the government. Scott Morrison still has some questions over what he knew about allegations against Kelly’s staffer, so you can expect more questions on that today as well.
We’ll bring you all of that and more as it happens – you have the Guardian Canberra crew at your disposal, as well as Mike Bowers and me, Amy Remeikis on the blog.
It’s going to be a five-coffee day. I can feel it.