Brittany Higgins has wrapped up her last day of cross-examination in Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation suit, and it didn’t fail to deliver. The biggest revelation of her testimony was to confirm what everyone in Australia already knew: the taxpayer has been stiffed $2.3 million, straight to Brittany’s pockets.
Brittany Higgins says she received $2.3 million from the commonwealth for failing in their “duty of care” after she was allegedly raped by Bruce Lehrmann on a couch in Parliament House.
The court this afternoon heard Ms Higgins entered mediation with the commonwealth, after which a settlement was made.The Australian
“Mediation”, though, seems a pretty generous description for what actually happened.
It’s taken a defamation trial to discover the truth, but finally we know how much the Albanese government paid to settle Brittany Higgins’ untested claim that she would not be able to work for at least 40 years after allegedly being raped by Bruce Lehrmann.
If the figure itself is astounding – $2.3m – how much more extraordinary was the government’s determination to pay the money without challenging the veracity of the claim.
The payment went to the heart of Labor’s hopelessly conflicted role in this tawdry affair.
The Albanese government has repeatedly refused to answer questions about its role in the settlement, apart from denying that Finance Minister Katy Gallagher, a friend of Higgins’ boyfriend David Sharaz and a key figure in pursuing the affair in parliament when in opposition, was involved.
But the female politician most involved, former Coalition government minister Linda Reynolds, was actively gagged from telling her side of the story by the Albanese government. Another former minister, Michaelia Cash, was not given the opportunity to contest Higgins’ claims of subjecting her to “victimisation, ostracism” and pressuring her not to discuss the assault or their response to it.
The former Defence Industries minister was therefore unable to dispute any of Higgins’ allegations about a failure to support her or properly investigate the incident, a number of which were contested at Lehrmann’s criminal trial and again during these defamation proceedings.
The taxpayer-funded settlement was reached after a single sitting, astonishing lawyers familiar with such matters, and only revealed – without any details – in a late-night statement clearly designed to minimise media coverage.The Australian
And, as a testimony to the aborted rape trial established, the only two people to encourage Higgins to go to the police were Reynolds and her then chief of staff Fiona Brown.
Indeed, a secretly recorded tape Higgins made of a meeting with Reynold’s chief of staff, Daniel Try, and another staffer, Kristy Pearson, appears to undermine her claim that Reynolds knew of the alleged rape in October 2019. The audio was recorded on February 5, 2020, when Higgins tendered her resignation.
Ms Higgins says she met with Mr Try and a staffer from Senator Reynolds’ office, Kristy Pearson, in which the alleged assault was discussed. Ms Higgins said Mr Try then told Senator Cash about the alleged rape, and then the three of them had a meeting.
That was when, according to Senator Cash, she first heard the allegation. Higgins claims they only “pretended not to know”.
Bruce Lehrmann’s barrister Steve Whybrow put to Ms Higgins that, if this was the case, she would have called Senator Cash out on the lie.
“I suggested if they did know, what you would have said is, ‘Minister I’ve already told you this, I can’t tell you again I don’t want to go through it again’,” Mr Whybrown said. “That’s what you would have done if you’re telling the truth.”
Yet, on Higgins’ admission, none of them knew they were being recorded — which begs the question of why they would “pretend not to know”.
No wonder Senator Cash has consented to the tape being played in court. Unfortunately, Mr Try has been uncontactable, so the secretly recorded conversation remains inadmissible.
Higgins was also forced to defend her seemingly contradictory claims of being too mentally fragile to testify in a rape trial, but apparently able to appear for the defence in Lehrmann’s defamation trial.
Brittany Higgins has defended a tweet she released explaining her willingness to participate in defamation proceedings brought by Bruce Lehrmann […]
In a response to the tweet, Ms Higgins added any further proceedings would be held “in a slightly more favourable court”, referring to the lower standard of proof required in civil cases.
Mr Lehrmann’s barrister Steve Whybrow SC suggested Ms Higgins was willing to testify in a civil trial, not another criminal trial, because of the lower standard of proof of the balance of probabilities.
Mr Whybrow: “The DPP (Shane Drumgold) said that the criminal trial could not proceed because of risk to your health.”
Ms Higgins: “Yes.”
Mr Whybrow: “Six days later. you were posting to the world that you would be there if you brought any cases.”
Ms Higgins: “I was tweeting that from a hospital, but that’s why I have a legal minder nowadays, so I can’t do anything dumb.”The Australian
Seems like slamming the stable door after the horse long ago bolted.