Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has extended her medical leave after she called an alleged sexual assault victim and former staff member a “lying cow”.
Ms Reynolds went on sick leave two weeks ago shortly after a former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins alleged she had been sexually assaulted by a colleague in the minister's office two years ago.
The case is now in the hands of the police.
After misleading parliament about the issue, Ms Reynolds pulled out of a National Press Club address on February 24, citing a medical condition.
Ms Reynolds has now extended her leave until April 2, after reportedly being reassessed by her cardiologist in relation to a pre-existing medical condition, according to a statement from her office.
“Senator Reynolds has advised Scott Morrison of her doctor's assessment and will continue to consult with the prime minister as required,” the statement reads.
The senator is said to be “recuperating well”.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne will continue to act as defence minister in her absence.
A source close to Ms Reynolds told the Sydney Morning Herald the medical extension was reportedly issued before the “lying cow” comment was made public.
They added Ms Reynolds has been given new medication and a decision on returning to work is being made on a “week-to-week basis”.
The extended absence shields the minister from having to face further scrutiny as it means she will miss Senate estimates and the next sitting of parliament. Provided she stays in the role, she won't be due to appear in parliament again until mid May.
Senator 'needs to go'
Labor has called on the senator to resign with home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally calling Ms Reynolds’ position “untenable”.
"To be defence minister, to be any minister, you need good judgement and sound character," Ms Keneally told reporters in Sydney.
"What we have seen from Linda Reynolds is that she has neither. She needs to go, her position is untenable."
Ms Reynolds has since apologised, but said the comments were not over the rape allegation, but rather referring to Ms Higgins' characterisation of the support she received from the minister's office over the incident.
But Ms Keneally said the minister cannot call an alleged victim of a rape in her own office a "lying cow" and think it has no consequences.
"She should make that decision today and she should go," she said.
"And if she won't, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison should show leadership."
'Angry and sad': Brittany Higgins and partner leave Canberra
Ms Higgins and her partner David Sharaz have reportedly decided to leave Canberra in the wake of the allegations.
In a since deleted tweet, Mr Sharaz said he moved to Canberra a decade ago thinking it would be his “forever home” saying he is “angry and sad” to leave.
“Sad that our leaders attack instead of address, support and amend,” he said.
“Angry that things won’t change.”
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com