This story contains allegations of sexual assault and may upset some readers.
Senator Michaelia Cash testified in court Monday that she had no knowledge of the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins in Parliament House, nearly two years after it was said to have happened.
She said covering up the alleged rape between two staff members in the minister’s office would be “political suicide”.
Senator Cash appeared before the ACT Supreme Court via video link as a witness at the trial of Bruce Lerman.
Mr Lerman, a former Liberal Party official, denies allegations of raping Brittany Higgins in the Houses of Parliament. He pleaded not guilty to a charge of non-consensual sex.
On Monday, Senator Cash denied knowledge of the alleged assault days before Ms Higgins went public in a TV interview in 2021.
Earlier in the trial, Brittany Higgins said she had several in-depth conversations with Ms Cash following a media inquiry in October 2019.
Senator Cash said on Monday she was aware of the media request, but told the court that Ms Higgins had only told her about the security incident, not the assault allegation.
“Brittany was embarrassed because this [the media enquiry] was related to herself and the security incident,” Senator Cash said.
“They are [two staffers] they were drinking, they were potentially drunk, they went back to the Secretary of Defense’s office … Brittany fell asleep on the couch and the next day Brittany was found by security.”
The alleged rape occurred in March 2019 while Ms. Higgins and Mr. Lerman were working in the office of then-Defense Industry Secretary Linda Reynold.
Ms. Higgins served as Senator Cash’s social media advisor following the May 2019 election.
Senator Cash denied an allegation of rape in a minister’s office would be “politically embarrassing”.
“Absolutely not, I don’t understand the political connection to this,” Senator Cash told the court.
“Are you saying it wouldn’t be politically embarrassing if one staff member raped another staff member in a minister’s office?” asked.
“I don’t know how that could be politically embarrassing, that would be something that would have to be addressed,” Senator Cash replied.
When Mr Lerman’s lawyer Stephen Whybrow suggested the government’s attempt to cover up the sexual assault allegations would be “political suicide”, Senator Cash agreed.
“Hence my confusion with the preliminary interrogation,” she said.
Under cross-examination, Senator Cash said she learned of the rape allegations during a phone conversation with Brittany Higgins in February 2021.
She said she told Ms Higgins she would support her “every step of the way” if she decided to go to the police.
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