Aus Defence Minister sorry for ‘hurtful’ remarks

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Canberra, March 5 : Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds on Friday apologised to a former government staffer who has alleged that she was raped in Parliament House and demanded an apology after Reynolds called her a “lying cow”.

Brittany Higgins, who in February went public with allegations that she was raped by a colleague in Reynolds’ office in 2019, on Thursday threatened legal action over the Minister’s comments, which were made to staffers, Xinhua news agency reported.

In a statement, Higgins said that the language was “incredibly hurtful” and demanded that Reynolds publicly apologize or face possible legal action.

“I appreciate that it has been a stressful time but that sort of behaviour and language is never excusable.

“It’s just further evidence of the toxic workplace culture that exists behind closed doors in Parliament House,” Higgins said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the comments were “inappropriate and wrong”.

“She deeply regrets it. They were offensive remarks. She should never have made them. I don’t condone them,” he told reporters on Thursday.

On Friday Reynolds apologized to Higgins for the comments.

“In response to a letter from Higgins’ lawyers yesterday afternoon, discussions are now underway through our legal representatives in an effort to resolve this matter as soon as possible, with any resolution to include an apology,” she said in a statement.

“However, in the meantime, I want to express how deeply sorry I am for these remarks and for any hurt and distress they have caused.”

It comes as the government faces increasing scrutiny over the workplace culture in Parliament House.