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Government grilled over delayed inquiry into alleged rape of Brittany Higgins

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

An independent inquiry into when the Prime Minister’s office found out about the alleged rape of former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins will be handed down within weeks.

An independent inquiry into when the Prime Minister's office found out about the alleged rape of former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins will be handed down within weeks.

The secretary of the Prime Minister's Department Philip Gaetjens has been grilled at Senate Estimates over progress in his review, which he started on February 17.

The probe was then paused for two months following advice from the Australian Federal Police it could overlap with a criminal investigation into the incident, that allegedly occurred inside Parliament House in March 2019.

READ MORE: No changes to Parliament House policy after Higgins' alleged rape

Phil Gaetjens has paused an investigation into who knew about Brittany Higgins' rape allegation and when.

Mr Gaetjens told Senators the inquiry will be concluded within "weeks, not days", prompting Labor Senator Katy Gallagher to question why it's taken almost 100 days.

"Is it seriously this hard to work out who knew what when? It looks like you're trying to kick this can down the road from the events of February this year and frankly, March 2019 and hope people forget it," Senator Gallagher told the committee.

Mr Gaetjens refused to say how many staff within Scott Morrison's office had been questioned over their knowledge of the allegation, and whether they'd sought legal advice.

He also couldn't say whether his report would be publicly released by the Prime Minister.

READ MORE: Linda Reynolds 'assisting AFP' with Brittany Higgins rape allegations

"It's not up to me whether it should be made public," Mr Gaetjens said.

Labor senators said the lack of transparency amounts to a "cover-up".

"A young woman was allegedly raped in a minister's office, and the Prime Minister is asked what he knew," Penny Wong posed to Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham.

READ:  Woman found safe after alleged abduction on Gold Coast

"Do you feel no shame Senator Birmingham, about the way this is being dragged out and the extent to which you are going ... to prevent answers to the simple question of who knew what when?"

READ MORE: Brittany Higgins says 'onus is on government' to end 'culture of silence'

Mr Morrison said the reopening of borders and other travel bubbles would be a "gradual process".

The answer to whether criminal charges could be laid over the alleged rape will be known soon.

AFP commissioner Reece Kershaw confirmed to a separate parliamentary hearing, a brief of evidence will be handed to prosecutors "in the coming weeks".

Source: 9News

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