Finance Minister Katy Gallagher denies misleading parliament over Brittany Higgins’ rape allegation

Finance Minister Katy Gallagher has denied misleading parliament over Brittany Higgins’ rape allegation and says Labor was not out to “weaponise” the issue for political gain.

Labor has been accused by the opposition of seeking to politically profit from Higgins’ allegations before they were made public in 2021.

Finance Minister Katy Gallagher has faced questions over when and what she knew about the rape allegation before it was made public.

Alex Ellinghausen

The former Liberal staffer reached a compensation agreement with the Commonwealth in December 2022 after she launched legal action against her employers in the former Morrison government.

Higgins alleged she was raped by fellow Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann in 2019 inside the office of then-Coalition minister Linda Reynolds, who they both worked for. Lehrmann has always denied Higgins’ allegation.

Gallagher said during a Senate hearing on June 4, 2021, that “no one” had any knowledge of Higgins’ claim before it was made public on February 15, 2021. She accused Reynolds of trying to protect herself when the then-Coalition minister suggested Labor MPs, including Gallagher and Penny Wong, had been tipped off about the allegations before details were published in the media.

But leaked text messages between Higgins and her partner, David Sharaz, published in , 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 and published by on February 15, 2021.

Senator Gallagher told reporters in Perth on Saturday it was “never true” that she had known about Higgins’ allegations for weeks and that Labor had made a decision to weaponise them.

“The answer to the question about the allegation of mislead is no, I did not mislead the parliament,” she said.

“I was responding to an assertion that was being made by the Minister Reynolds at the time, that we had known about this for weeks and had made a decision to weaponise it. That is not true.”

Gallagher conceded she was aware of some allegations in the days leading up to Higgins making them public and that Sharaz had provided her with information.

“I did nothing with that information, and I was clear about that at the time,” she said.

“So there’s absolutely no issue here at all. I’ve been clear, I’ve been honest.

“From that, we have had massive changes to that workplace.”

Reynolds earlier told this masthead that Gallagher confirmed to her that she knew about the rape allegation before Higgins went public.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong urged people commenting on the case to consider the impact on Higgins after a retrial of her rape allegations was ruled out due to the effects on her mental health and a potential “risk to life”.

Wong said those who have published Higgins’ private text messages without her consent should “reflect on their responsibilities”.

Wong said she did not know the details of the allegations before the story became public, and she had never made any details of the case public.

“There are others who did know a lot of detail, including Morrison government ministers, and they have still failed to account for what they did with that information.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Friday described the opposition attack on Gallagher as “bizarre”.

“You had allegations by a Liberal staffer that another Liberal staffer had a sexual assault in a Liberal minister’s office, and somehow, somehow Katy Gallagher has some responsibility for what was going on here,” he said.

Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley said senior members of the Albanese government needed to come clean on what they knew and when.

“The release of text messages and audio recordings has brought into question the conduct of some senior Labor ministers, and the prime minister himself, relating to whether they chose to weaponise a rape allegation for political purposes,” Ms Ley said.

“The government’s credibility is in tatters and so every single claim needs to be validated.”

With AAP

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