Brittany Higgins has demanded an apology from Defence Minister Linda Reynolds after reports the minister called her a “lying cow”.
Now, a law firm representing Ms Higgins has issued a demand for “an immediate and unequivocal public withdrawal of (Ms Reynolds’) comments and (an) apology to our client for the hurt and distress caused”.
The letter reads: “The demeaning and belittling statement, in which you refer to our client as a member of the animal kingdom and declare her to be untruthful, is highly defamatory of our client’s good character and unblemished reputation.”
The firm, Company (Giles) said the letter constituted a “Concerns Notice” under defamation legislation.
A Concerns Notice is a communique sent to a person who has made allegedly defamatory statements, prior to commencing legal proceedings for defamation.
Ms Higgins earlier today issued a statement saying Ms Reynolds’ comments were evidence of a “toxic culture” in Parliament House.
“I appreciate that it has been a stressful time but that sort of behaviour and language is never excusable,” she said.
In a statement earlier today, Senator Reynolds did not dispute using the term, but sought to clarify the context of the comment.
“I have never questioned Ms Higgins’ account of her alleged sexual assault and have always sought to respect her agency in this matter,” she said.
“I did however comment on news reports regarding surrounding circumstances that I felt had been misrepresented.
“I have consistently respected Ms Higgins’ agency and privacy and said this is her story to tell and no one else’s.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison earlier condemned the remarks but defended Senator Reynolds, saying she regrets the comments and the last few weeks had been “traumatic” for many people, resulting in high tensions.
“She has deeply regretted them, she made them in a private office,” Mr Morrison said.
“She immediately apologised.”