Linda Reynolds’ return to Defence role unclear after hospitalisation | The Canberra Times

Linda Reynolds’ return to Defence role unclear after hospitalisation | The Canberra Times
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news, federal-politics, Linda Reynolds

It is unclear when Defence Minister Linda Reynolds will return to work after taking medical leave amid the continuing scandal surrounding the alleged rape of a former staffer in her office. Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins made a statement to police on Wednesday, seeking to reopen the investigation into the fellow staffer accused of sexually assaulting her in Senator Reynolds’ office. Just hours before the minister was due to appear at the National Press Club, it was announced she had been admitted to Canberra Hospital as a precaution on the advice of her cardiologist for a pre-existing heart condition. Senator Reynolds will take indefinite medical leave following nearly two weeks of intense pressure over the allegation of sexual assault and ensuing questions over whether she supported Ms Higgins appropriately and what was known within ministerial ranks. The minister had been due to give an address on security matters, but was expected to face a grilling over the treatment of Ms Higgins, and revelations that multiple senior government figures – including Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton – knew of an alleged rape in Parliament House before Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Mr Morrison phoned Senator Reynolds on Wednesday to express his concern and sympathy, and to wish her a quick recovery. Foreign Minister and former defence minister Marise Payne will act in the Defence role until Senator Reynolds returns from leave. The former staffer to Defence Minister Linda Reynolds at the centre of a movement for systemic change in Parliament has wished her former boss well. READ MORE: Tweeting following the news that Senator Reynolds had been admitted to Canberra Hospital as a precautionary measure on Wednesday morning, her former media adviser Brittany Higgins wished “genuine hope” for the minister’s recovery. “Let’s just hope that from this whole horrible situation there will actually be some fundamental reform to the [Members of Parliament (Staff) Act] for vulnerable staff and improvements to the workplace culture in Parliament House,” Ms Higgins tweeted. Tweeting following the news that Senator Reynolds had been admitted to hospital, Ms Higgins wished “genuine hope” for the minister’s recovery. “Let’s just hope that from this whole horrible situation there will actually be some fundamental reform to the [Members of Parliament (Staff) Act] for vulnerable staff and improvements to the workplace culture in Parliament House,” Ms Higgins tweeted. Senator Reynolds was visibly upset while answering questions in Parliament following revelations of Ms Higgins’ complaint and subsequent departure from her work as a media adviser for the government. The senator has apologised to Ms Higgins, and deflected questions on actions taken after the allegation was reported as not being her story to tell. Mr Morrison revealed in Parliament that Senator Reynolds met with an AFP assistant commissioner after learning of the allegations. She has been forced to correct the record as to how many times she met with police about the allegations in 2019. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has also joined the growing list of people who knew of the alleged rape in Parliament House before the Prime Minister. Mr Dutton confirmed Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw informed him about the alleged sexual assault on February 11, four days before the Prime Minister says he was told. Mr Morrison said his office first knew of the allegation on February 12 but took almost three days to notify him. Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Philip Gaetjens, who is Mr Morrison’s former chief of staff, is investigating if senior staff were aware earlier. Ms Higgins is adamant a key Morrison adviser “checked in” with her via WhatsApp after Four Corners ran an expose on parliamentary culture in 2020. The man accused of the rape was sacked over a security breach for entering Parliament House on the night of the incident. At least two other staff now in the Prime Minister’s office were involved in handling the security breach in 2019. Employment Minister Michaelia Cash first spoke with Ms Higgins about the alleged rape on February 5 this year. House of Representatives Speaker Tony Smith and Senate President Scott Ryan were also told in 2019 about an incident at Parliament House. They were aware federal police may request CCTV footage concerning an alleged sexual assault, but later learnt no complaint was being proceeded with and did not tell the Prime Minister. There are now four inquiries stemming from the allegations. Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:

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