SENATOR KRISTINA KENEALLY
DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY
SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES
SKY NEWS FIRST EDITION
WEDNESDAY, 17 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Sexual assault allegations at Parliament House; Federal Court decision on Biloela Family.
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: There have been more developments that have emerged overnight. Samantha Maiden has been reporting this morning that the former Director of Security Operations at Parliament House had quit his job in the wake of the Higgins assault after raising concerns over how it was handled. Language had been softened when it had been reported as well. Just want to start off with your reaction to that?
SENATOR KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY: Good morning, Peter. Good morning to your viewers. Yeah, this is an incredibly distressing story, obviously. And may I say that my compassion and my support for Brittany Higgins and my admiration for her courage and her determination. But these revelations point to an ongoing culture of cover up, we heard Ms Higgins herself describe how she felt like she was a political problem, that they just, the Government just wanted her to go away and in fact, sent her away to ensure that she stayed quiet. She thought she had to choose between her job and taking these allegations of the alleged rape to the Police.
KENEALLY: Now, to hear that, that Parliament and security had concerns about the way this was being handled, that there has been a resignation within here, that there has been softening of language. These are highly concerning reports. And it goes to a culture here in the Parliament, where women understandably, no longer feel safe. And that's a huge statement to make. But after allegations of bullying within the Government and the Liberal Party, after allegations of a rape in a Ministerial office, and after, you know promises after promises by Scott Morrison, there would be a robust process for complaints to come forward to hear today that Parliament security felt that this wasn't being addressed appropriately. Well. I think there are more questions to be answered by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence,
STEFANOVIC: Would you be demanding resignations?
KENEALLY: I think the Prime Minister needs to clear up what he said in Parliament yesterday when he said that his office only became aware of the allegations of rape this week, and those were his words that his office only became aware. Now that statement is at odds with Brittany Higgins in her interview. It is also at odds with the very statement the Prime Minister's office put out after that interview went to air and I've got that statement here where the Prime Minister, it says, the Prime Minister's office was providing support to Minister Reynolds in assessing back in March if the statement of standards for ministerial staff had been breached. So it's one or the other, Peter. Either the Prime Minister's, the Government's statement is correct, and the Prime Minister's office was involved back in March and was aware of this alleged rape, or the Prime Minister misled the Parliament yesterday and quite frankly, it again points to this culture of cover up. And when the Minister for Defence and the Prime Minister can't even get their stories straight, they are compounding the trauma and the grief for Brittany Higgins and any other woman in this building who has had an experience of harassment, bullying, or, God help us, sexual assault and has not felt the confidence to bring it forward.
STEFANOVIC: Peta Credlin on her show last night said that, you know, the work hard play hard thing was evident during her years in Canberra. She was shocked by what Ms Higgins had to say but she was not entirely that surprised by it. Given all your years in Parliament, Kristina, what have you seen, if anything, that in hindsight, was unacceptable?
KENEALLY: Peter, it's a really good question. And it's something I spoke about when I appeared in the Four Corners 'Canberra Bubble' program, that when I first came to Federal Parliament as a member of the Press Gallery, in fact, I was taken aback by the culture here. And Peta Credlin is right, the ‘work hard, play hard’ culture is here and that's not unusual in other industries. However, it doesn't need to come with women feeling unsafe, women feeling like sexual objects or women feeling that if they are assaulted or harassed that they can't bring those complaints forward and be believed and supported. What I have observed here is that there is a culture, though, unfortunately in Canberra, where, quite frankly, women are often sexualised and sexual objects. And, I have often, as I said on that ABC Four Corners program, I wondered at the time, what is it like for women in this building who are not in positions of power and don't have public platforms and don't have the agency to be able to to manage, address and deal with assault.
STEFANOVIC: Yeah, and I know that Britt's not doing well, at the moment struggling actually, under the pressure of kind of going up against the system. She received a call from Malcolm Turnbull last night. No calls, though, from Scott Morrison or Linda Reynolds or even Michaela Cash. Does that surprise you?
KENEALLY: It does. And, you know, while I acknowledge that the Minister, Linda Reynolds, gave a very long answer to a question, she used Question Time to apologise publicly, to Brittany. Quite frankly, pick up the phone, be a human being, you know, and stop obfuscating. I mean, we have here the most horrific thing I can imagine, a young staffer with an alleged rape on the Minister's couch. You know, I don't understand Peter, how Minister Reynolds can't be moved by that. What I also don't understand is why the Prime Minister had to point to a conversation with his wife and observe that he was the father of daughters to understand that an alleged rape is wrong, and the victims should be supported. Surely, any human being but particularly the Prime Minister of the country doesn't need to be the father of daughters to understand that.
STEFANOVIC: Alright, Kristina Keneally. I did want to talk to you about a few other issues as well. But we're out of time, unfortunately. But we'll talk to you again soon. Appreciate you coming on, though. We'll talk to you again soon.
KENEALLY: Thank you.