Topic: Katy Gallagher has questions to answer;
Tuesday, 13 June, 2023
Peter Stefanovic: Finance Minister Katy Gallagher is facing mounting pressure to reveal her involvement in the Brittany Higgins rape allegation. The coalition is demanding Ms. Gallagher disclose whether she encouraged Brittany Higgins to go to police before making her rape allegation public. Back to Canberra now. Joining us is the Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Birmingham. Simon, in your view – good morning, by the way. In your view, did Katy Gallagher mislead Parliament?
Simon Birmingham: Good morning, Pete. Firstly, it’s important in these instances for us to remember that at its heart we’re dealing with a situation of a young woman who has made a rape claim, a young man whose life has been affected by that claim, and indeed many others, particularly those who worked closely with him in supervising roles whose lives have also been affected by these claims. But sadly, what we saw at the time that they became public was they were politicised in ways that saw literally hundreds of questions being asked by Anthony Albanese’s Labor team in this parliament and asked in a context where Senator Katy Gallagher said at the time that nobody had any information that they were indicating and stating clearly they were only acting off of what was in the public domain. Now that appears to not be the case. And so there are questions to be answered about the truthfulness of those statements and the actions and politicisation that followed.
Peter Stefanovic: So, did she mislead Parliament?
Simon Birmingham: I think the prima facie there appears to be a case that she did. However, it’s for her, of course, to explain that. Explain it clearly in terms of what actually she was provided with-
Peter Stefanovic: Has she explained it clearly since?
Simon Birmingham: I certainly been no clear explanation in recent days. The statements that were made hurriedly in Perth over the weekend were no satisfactory explanation. And so, in the Parliament today, which is where this should occur, because the claims that there was no knowledge of any information were made to the Senate through a Senate committee process. And it’s only appropriate that that should be cleared up and addressed in the Senate by the Minister.
Peter Stefanovic: Anthony Albanese on radio this morning said attacks on Katy Gallagher are quote, “an absurd and desperate distraction”. That’s from the Prime Minister. Your thoughts on those comments?
Simon Birmingham: The reality is that it was Anthony Albanese’s Labor team that chose to, through the parliamentary processes, asked hundreds and hundreds of questions about these allegations to take them from a legal matter, a criminal matter, a matter to be decided by the courts and put them through the parliament as well. Now, having done that and done that whilst proclaiming the innocence of their team in terms of any prior knowledge or involvement in the political nature of that attack, frankly, does now warrant scrutiny as to whether or not they did have that prior knowledge or information.
Peter Stefanovic: Okay. If Katy Gallagher misled Parliament, Fiona Brown claimed on the weekend that Scott Morrison did. He claimed in Question Time that he talked to Fiona about it. She said he did not. You were in the leadership group at the time, so should you also have questions to answer?
Simon Birmingham: I saw Ms Brown’s comments. And indeed, Fiona Brown is somebody who has conducted herself with great integrity through this process and is one of those people I certainly had in mind when thinking at the outset about the many different lives that have been impacted by this. And I have regard for her. Obviously, she has a recollection of events involving the former prime minister, but he is no longer a minister and that matter was settled by the people.
Peter Stefanovic: So did Scott Morrison mislead Parliament, though?
Simon Birmingham: Well, that’s a matter that only he and Fiona know the context in nature of the conversations that they had. But his ministerial career has been brought to an end.
Peter Stefanovic: Okay. But that’s not going to be the end of the questions, though. Jim Chalmers, he mentioned this yesterday that the leadership group might still have questions to answer with regards to this. So, are you going to have to come up with a response to it? I mean, is there do you wish you went about things differently as part of the leadership group?
Simon Birmingham: Oh, Peter, I think I think we can all look at all that unfolded and wish that many outcomes had occurred differently in terms of the efforts that Fiona Brown and Linda Reynolds made to try to have an earlier involvement of the police in this process. It would have been far preferable if that had occurred at the earliest stage and the justice system being allowed to run its course. But ultimately, a decisions on those matters are ones for the person most directly affected. And you’ve got to respect their rights and their agency in those cases.
Peter Stefanovic: All right. Simon Birmingham, thanks for your time as always. We’ll talk to you again soon.