Labor has questioned why an inquiry by the head of the prime minister’s department into the alleged sexual assault of Brittany Higgins was not completed before he suspended it.
Phil Gaetjens was asked in February to report on who in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office knew about the alleged rape of the former Liberal staffer in 2019.
The ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold had advised the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet the inquiry could prejudice a criminal case now underway.
Mr Gaetjens earlier this week suspended the investigation until after the criminal proceeding are finished based on legal advice.
A man, 26, has been summonsed to appear in ACT Magistrates Court on September 16 over the incident.
Police will allege the man had sexual intercourse with Ms Higgins without her consent at Parliament House on March 23, 2019.
Labor’s women spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said she could not believe Mr Gaetjens inquiry had been delayed.
“It just beggars belief that this report is not done. It should be done and dusted. It should have been finished months ago,” she told the ABC on Wednesday.
“This is a simple question: who knew what when about the reported assault of Brittany Higgins just metres away from the prime minister’s office?”
Mr Gaetjens said his decision was about ensuring the inquiry did not have an impact on the criminal case.
“The action I have taken is strictly in response to the legal advice I have received, and does not relate to any of the content of the inquiry,” he said in a statement.
“No inferences in relation to that content can be drawn from the legal advice nor my decision to suspend the inquiry.”
In February, Ms Higgins went public about the alleged assault in a ministerial office, triggering a national debate about the treatment of women.