Abetz accused of 'slut-shaming' Higgins

·3-min read

Liberal Senator Eric Abetz has been accused of slut-shaming Brittany Higgins and saying she was "so disgustingly drunk" she "would sleep with anybody".

Senator Abetz has categorically denied making the alleged comments which were aired by Tasmanian Speaker Sue Hickey under parliamentary privilege on Wednesday.

Ms Hickey told state parliament she spoke with Senator Abetz on March 1 at a Hobart City Council citizenship ceremony and asked if the federal minister accused of a historical rape was Christian Porter.

"The senator quickly responded that yes, it was the first law officer of the nation, Christian Porter, but not to worry, the woman is dead and the law will protect him," she said. Mr Porter has denied the allegations.

"He then said 'as for that Higgins girl, anybody who is so disgustingly drunk who would sleep with anybody, could have slept with one of our spies and put the security of our nation at risk'."

Ex-Liberal staffer Ms Higgins alleges she was raped by a colleague in the office of federal Defence Minister Linda Reynolds in 2019. She has since made a complaint to police.

Senator Abetz told a Senate committee he "rejected and categorically denied" the "mischievous assertions made under parliamentary privilege".

"To suggest that I'd make light of a rape allegation is horrendous," he said.

Senator Abetz has questioned the timing of Ms Hickey's accusations and says she never raised concerns with him.

Ms Hickey announced earlier this week she was quitting the state Liberals to run as an independent after being told she would not be endorsed by the party for the next election.

She made waves in 2018 when she voted with the Labor and Greens opposition to take the role of Speaker ahead of the Liberal's preferred option.

"It's noteworthy Ms Hickey has made her assertions some three weeks after she alleges they occurred," Senator Abetz said in a formal statement.

"Indeed, a fortnight later when we had a chance meeting in a coffee shop in Launceston Ms Hickey actually offered to buy me a cup of coffee which I politely declined because I was about to meet someone.

"What has changed? The premier telling her on Sunday she was no longer wanted by the Liberal Party."

Senator Abetz says Ms Hickey is "trying to destroy the party" on her way out the door.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Senator Abetz would continue in his roles on various committees, noting he had absolutely denied making the comments.

Ms Hickey later returned serve in Tasmania's parliament saying she had witnesses to back up her account and had spoken about the conversation with senior Liberal members a few weeks ago.

"This is why the women of Australia are angry. This is why they do not speak out," she said.

"No amount of denial from the senator will remove the conversation from our community dialogue, or my clear and concise memories of the revulsion I felt at the time."

Ms Hickey said she felt compelled to come forward after watching Monday's ABC Four Corners report.

"I call on (Senator Abetz) to apologise for his misogynist views no matter how deeply he believes them," she said.

"My kind offer to buy him a coffee recently should not be taken as an endorsement of his comments."

In her initial address to parliament, Ms Hickey said she asked Senator Abetz why Parliament House security guards hadn't stepped in, given how drunk Ms Higgins appeared.

"He responded abruptly that if any security member dared to question the validity of access to the parliament by anyone who held a security pass, they would be sacked," she said.

"I accept that these are deeply held views by the senator, however, they are not endorsed by our wider community who view this judgment as slut-shaming."