Using parliamentary privilege, Ms Hickey told the Tasmanian Parliament that the two casually discussed recent sex scandals plaguing federal politics while at a citizenship ceremony.
“I casually asked the honourable Senator Eric Abetz if the minister allegedly accused of the alleged rape that occurred around 30 years ago was the honourable Christian Porter MP,” Ms Hickey told Tasmanian Parliament.
“The senator quickly responded that yes, it was the first law officer of the nation, Christian Porter, but not to worry, the woman is dead and the law will protect him.”
Ms Hickey then said the conversation turned to Ms Higgins, where she alleges Mr Abetz said: “As for that Higgins girl, anybody who is so disgustingly drunk, who would sleep with anybody, could have slept with one of our spies and put the security of our nation at risk”.
Mr Abetz has categorically denied the allegations in a statement, saying they are defamatory.
The full statement can be read below.
“Allegations of rape are serious matters and have always been treated as such by me. Sexual assault is an issue on which I’ve been consistently outspoken including domestic violence,” Mr Abetz said in the statement.
“Ms Hickey’s suggestions otherwise is simply false. As some one who was on the inaugural committee of a women’s shelter and its honorary legal adviser for a decade prior to entering parliament, I reject outright her suggestions and gross mischaracterisation of our discussion.
“Its noteworthy Ms Hickey has made her assertions some three weeks after she alleges they occurred.”
Scott Morrison threw his support behind Mr Abetz when he was asked about the alleged comments in Question Time this afternoon.
“What I can only refer to is the absolute denial of those statements by Senator Abetz. Now, I was not a party to this conversation, Mr Speaker,” Mr Morrison said.
“There were two persons who allegedly were part of this conversation. I was not one of them nor was the member who asked the question.”
He said Mr Abetz would continue to serve in his role and had been a “significant contributor” to the Australian political landscape.
The fracas over the nature of the pair’s conversation comes amid widespread condemnation of the Morrison Government’s handling of complaints of sexual assault.
Yesterday during a press conference in which he made an impassioned plea to the women of Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison accused a Sky News journalist of “living in a glass house” and referenced an HR complain of a sexual nature in a media organisation.
That complain was strenuously denied by both Sky News and News Corp, and the Prime Minister later apologised for it.
“In the course of today’s media conference when responding to further questions I deeply regret my insensitive response to a question from a News Ltd journalist by making an anonymous reference to an incident at News Ltd that has been rejected by the company,” Mr Morrison wrote on Facebook.
“I accept their account. I was wrong to raise it, the emotion of the moment is no excuse.”
Senator Eric Abetz’ full statement regarding Sue Hickey comments
Ms Hickey’s defamatory allegations under Parliamentary privilege are categorically denied.
Allegations of rape are serious matters and have always been treated as such by me. Sexual assault is an issue on which I’ve been consistently outspoken including domestic violence.
Ms Hickey’s suggestions otherwise is simply false. As some one who was on the inaugural committee of a women’s shelter and its honorary legal adviser for a decade prior to entering parliament, I reject outright her suggestions and gross mischaracterisation of our discussion.
Its noteworthy Ms Hickey has made her assertions some 3 weeks after she alleges they occurred.
At no stage has Ms Hickey ever raised concerns with me about any of our conversations.
Indeed, a fortnight later when we had a chance meeting in a coffee shop in Launceston Ms Hickey actually offered to buy me a cup of coffee which I politely declined because I was about to meet someone.
What has changed? The Premier telling her on Sunday she was no longer wanted by the Liberal Party. On her way out the door she is trying to destroy the Party – noting she has demeaned all her former female Liberal colleagues of Parliament and especially the Attorney General, the membership which initially endorsed her and even “unknown people”.