Scott Morrison has denied misleading the parliament about a probe being conducted by the head of his department. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Scott Morrison has denied misleading the parliament about a probe being conducted by the head of his department. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

‘Pinocchio’: PM accused of misleading parliament

Scott Morrison has denied misleading the parliament over an inquiry into Brittany Higgins' rape allegations being conducted by the head of his department.

Phil Gaetjens was in February tasked with investigating which members of his office knew about the allegations.

However, Mr Gaetjens on Monday revealed he suspended his inquiry following concerns it would overlap with the criminal investigation being conducted by the Australian Federal Police.

Mr Gaetjens told a Senate estimates committee that he informed the Prime Minister of the pause on March 9.

But last week, Mr Morrison told the parliament that inquiries were being made, and that Mr Gaetjens had "not provided me with a further update about when I might expect that report".

Labor leader Anthony Albanese accused Mr Morrison of misleading the parliament, reinforcing that he knew the probe was suspended.

"I did no such thing," Mr Morrison replied during question time.

"And he is conducting that inquiry at arm's length of me.

"There was no deadline or timetable that was available to me when I reported to the house."

His response was met with name-calling from one Labor MP, who yelled "Pinocchio" at the Prime Minister.

Scott Morrison rejected opposition assertions about the government’s handling of rape allegations. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Scott Morrison rejected opposition assertions about the government’s handling of rape allegations. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

After another question from the opposition about Mr Gaetjens' report, Mr Morrison said he had been "very clear" and challenged Mr Albanese to move a motion against him - which his opponent then did. Twice.

But the move was quickly shut down by acting leader of the house, Peter Dutton.

Labor did not give up on seeking clarity about claims from former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins, who last month publicly aired allegations that she was raped by a colleague in a ministerial office in March 2019.

For the fifth consecutive question time, the opposition grilled Mr Morrison over allegations that staff from his office tried to undermine Ms Higgins's loved ones.

Ballarat MP Catherine King also questioned if he had even asked his staff about the claims.

"Is his refusal to answer questions about whether he asked about the actions of his office just another example of don't ask, don't tell," she said.

But after repeated failed attempts to convince the opposition he had "no knowledge" of the claims, Mr Morrison attempted to change the narrative, taking on a more sombre approach.

"There is no information that has been put before me that would suggest this is being undertaken," he said in a low voice.

"Tell the truth," another Labor MP yelled before several female MPs erupted in shouts.

Brittany Higgins told the Women's March 4 Justice Rally in Canberra that staff from the Prime Minister’s office tried to undermine her loved ones. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Brittany Higgins told the Women's March 4 Justice Rally in Canberra that staff from the Prime Minister’s office tried to undermine her loved ones. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

Mr Morrison said the matters related to Ms Higgins and other claims of sexual assault had caused "deep distress" across Australia.

"My government remains focused on providing the support needed for women and men in this place to make sure they have the support they need when they are placed in situations that … are completely unacceptable," Mr Morrison said.

"The Labor Party is playing political games, seeking to score political points."

In a repeat of last week's question time, Mr Morrison went on to slam Mr Albanese for making a "personal attack", prompting shouts from both sides of the chamber.

Both leader also made speeches on the NSW floods.

Originally published as 'Pinocchio': PM accused of misleading parliament


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