Tasmanian Speaker Sue Hickey says she is “hamstrung” from repeating accusations about alleged comments by Liberal Senator Eric Abetz about an alleged rape victim without parliamentary protection — but says if she could, she would shout it from the rooftops, and wants the Prime Minister to consider what she has said.
Ms Hickey spoke to the ABC this morning as Tasmanian Liberal MPs called for a federally led investigation into Senator Abetz’s alleged comments.
In Tasmanian Parliament yesterday, the independent MP accused Senator Abetz of questioning why former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins was so drunk the night she was allegedly raped, and said he dismissed a rape allegation against Attorney-General Christian Porter.
Mr Porter has strenuously denied that allegation and Senator Abetz has denied making the comments or having the conversation with Ms Hickey.
Outside the Tasmanian Parliament this morning, Ms Hickey claimed she had plenty of witnesses who could back what she said.
“Clearly, I find myself in a really troublesome area where I can’t say anything [outside Parliament] because I will be accused of defamation, but I would love to scream from the rafters how I feel,” she said.
“I’m hoping yesterday, as dreadful as it was, will evoke change.
“Each of the parties needs to look at how it treats candidates.”
Overnight, Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein wrote to Prime Minister Scott Morrison asking him to “consider” the matters Ms Hickey had raised.
In the State Parliament on Thursday, Mr Gutwein declined to release the letter but said he had attached both Ms Hickey’s comments and Senator Abetz’s strenuous denial.
“I asked him to consider the matters raised,” Mr Gutwein said.
“[Senator Abetz’s] parliamentary career is a matter for the pre-selectors.”
Speaking outside Parliament this morning, Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff and Human Services Minister Roger Jaensch also called for Senator Abetz’s alleged comments to be “investigated”.
“That is the right course of action,” Mr Jaensch said.
Ms Hickey agreed: “That is the right thing to do.”
Speaking on ABC’s AM program on Thursday morning, Mr Morrison said Mr Gutwein’s letter “has not added any further information”.
“Senator Abetz, who is a longstanding member of the Senate — he’s a longstanding figure in public life and has a strong record when it comes to addressing these issues very seriously — has absolutely denied that,” Mr Morrison said.
“I was not a party to the conversation. And so, you know, in this country, if people make allegations, they can make them.
“This has been strenuously denied. And so I think it would be very unfair to draw a conclusion here when, you know, the facts are in such dispute.”