Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has defended not telling Prime Minister Scott Morrison of rape allegations from a former cabinet staffer after he was made aware of them.
Mr Dutton was informed of the allegations raised by Brittany Higgins against a former Liberal staffer on February 11, one day before media enquiries regarding the alleged rape were made. Mr Morrison says he became aware of the allegations on the morning of February 15.
"I took a decision at that time that I wasn't going to inform the prime minister because this was an operational matter," Mr Dutton said on Thursday morning as he was grilled by reporters for not informing the prime minister of the allegations.
A special investigations board at the Australian Federal Police informed Mr Dutton of Ms Higgins' alleged rape.
Mr Dutton said he had a "special responsibility" to receive briefings from the AFP due to his role in the cabinet.
"I formed a judgement that I was not going to provide that information or disclose the information, which the commissioner had provided to me," he said.
Mr Morrison says he found out about the allegations three days after his office was made aware of them.
Mr Dutton said he believed AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw did "the right thing" by only informing himself in the government.
Ms Higgins first contacted police over the alleged rape in April 2019.
Her accused rapist, who was sacked over a security breach, is facing further allegations of assault from three other women.
Other MPs found out before Morrison
Cabinet ministers Michaelia Cash and Linda Reynolds were also aware before the prime minister.
Senator Reynolds, who employed Ms Higgins at the time of the alleged assault, is now on indefinite medical leave after advice from her cardiologist.
She was admitted to Canberra Hospital hours before she was due to appear at the National Press Club.
The minister has been under intense pressure about her handling of the issue and was forced to correct the record about how many times she met with police in April 2019.
Ms Higgins is hopeful the "terrible situation" will lead to fundamental reform of the laws around employing staff and cultural change at Parliament House.
"I genuinely hope Linda Reynolds is okay and wish her all the best with her recovery," she tweeted.
The issue has dominated the parliamentary sitting fortnight with a slew of inquiries initiated to look at complaints processes and culture.
Mr Morrison has rejected suggestions there is a "don't ask, don't tell" culture within the government.
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