Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has retracted a comment calling former staffer and alleged rape victim Brittany Higgins a “lying cow” and agreed to pay damages.
In a statement, Senator Reynolds said she never intended for the comment to be made public and acknowledges the hurt it may have caused.
The apology is part of a defamation settlement, with costs to be paid in full to a charity that supports victims of sexual assault.
“On Friday 5 March 2021, I publicly apologised to Ms Brittany Higgins about the comment about her to my staff on 15 February 2021,” Senator Reynolds said in the statement.
“I wish to further address that comment that I made. I did not mean it in the sense it may have been understood.
“Given that the comment was made public, which I never intended, I also want to retract it and unreservedly apologise to Brittany Higgins and acknowledge the hurt and distress it caused to her.”
Ms Higgins was allegedly raped by another Liberal staffer in Senator Reynolds’ office in March 2019.
The incident is being investigated by the Australian Federal Police.
In a statement, Ms Higgins said she was pleased with the outcome and spoke of the “immensely challenging” period after she went public with her story.
“I am pleased that the Minister has now withdrawn her comments and I accept her apology to me,” Ms Higgins said.
“This has been an immensely challenging period for me and I wish to reiterate that the only reason I have chosen to come forward is to help others.
“Finally any monies I have received from the Minister as part of the settlement of my claim against her (over and above my legal costs) will be paid in full to an organisation that provides counselling and support to survivors of sexual assault and abuse in the Canberra area.
“These funds will assist them in this important work.”
Senator Reynolds is currently on medical leave on the advice of her cardiologist.