Brittany Higgins’ secret taxpayer-funded payout of up to $3 million was approved by Australia’s top lawyer after the trial of her alleged rapist was dropped, Daily Mail Australia can reveal.
Ms Higgins accused Bruce Lehrmann of raping her in March 2019 in a minister’s office at Parliament House. The trial was aborted and charges against Mr Lehrmann – which he has consistently denied – were later dropped.
However, ex-politician Higgins also filed a civil suit against her former employers, leading to the huge payout.
The final settlement was never disclosed, but it is widely believed that she walked away from a one-day mediation with the government with up to $3 million in taxpayers’ money.
Mrs. Higgins’ civil suit against the Commonwealth has been filed compensation for future economic loss, general damage, past economic loss and help with future household chores.
Daily Mail Australia can now reveal that its claim has been cleared by Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, in a decision based on outside legal advice.
Ms Higgins has launched a civil suit against her employers over the handling of her sexual assault allegations during her time as a parliamentary assistant
While the settlement was made by the Treasury Department, the Attorney General’s Office’s Legal Services Directions directed him to oversee — and agree to — all material claims brought against the Commonwealth.
Attorney General Dreyfus’s department was primarily responsible for the settlement.
A government spokesman defended the settlement, telling Daily Mail Australia that ‘Ms Higgins’ claim has been managed consistently with the Commonwealth’s obligations under the Legal Services Directions 2017′.
“The terms of the settlement and the claim were administered in accordance with legal principle and practice and informed by outside legal advice.”
The department was unable to comment further on what it paid in the settlement.
A December report quoted “people familiar” with her allegation and said she was initially seeking an amount of “approximately $3 million” for sexual harassment, gender discrimination, disability discrimination, negligence and victimization.
This was aborted by the The Sydney Morning Herald as “approximately $2.5 million for future economic loss, past economic loss nearly $100,000, general loss of $100,000.”
It also included “future help with household chores of approximately $200,000, and past and future out-of-pocket expenses of approximately another $150,000.”
In total, this amount amounts to $3.05 million. This is not to say that this is the amount she finally received.
Audio later emerged from Mrs Higgins’ interview with Lisa Wilkinson and the project in which her friend, David Sharaz, described a ‘friend’ within Labor who was willing to ‘investigate and get on with it’
Domestic help is a broad description that includes everyday tasks, such as cleaning and washing in the household, gardening or transport.
A person is entitled to help with household chores if a physician deems it necessary or helpful based on a functional assessment, and if these were household chores that the claimant performed herself prior to the injury.
At the time of the claim, Ms Higgins had not been employed as a parliamentary assistant since January 2021, evidenced by the past economic loss claim.
Ms Higgins alleged she was sexually assaulted in Linda Reynolds’ office in February 2021 after a staff night out in March 2019.
On Thursday morning, 2GB’s Ben Fordham called on the government to confirm the dollar amount of the settlement
The suspect, Mr Lehrmannstrongly denied the allegations, and the criminal charges against him were dropped after the trial was aborted due to juror misconduct.
The former parliamentary assistant has stated: ‘This is just flat out wrong… The settlement was well below the reported figure.’
The conciliation lasted just one day in December 2022 and the two former Liberal ministers at the center of the complaint, Ms Reynolds and Michaelia Cash, were warned not to attend.
Ms Reynolds claimed she was told that if she were present to testify, the Commonwealth would revoke a promise to cover her legal costs.
On Thursday morning, 2GB’s Ben Fordham called on the government to confirm the dollar amount of the settlement.
He said: ‘We will never know for sure what happened that night in the parliament building in the minister’s office.
“We know that Bruce lied to his girlfriend about what he was up to, but he has always denied attacking Brittany Higgins and detectives… had questions about Brittany’s credibility. They described her as evasive.
So why did she get $3 million? … If none of that stinks, I think you’ve lost your sense of smell.’
While the settlement was made by the Treasury Department, the Legal Services Directions of the Attorney General’s office indicate that he must oversee and sign off on all major claims filed against the Commonwealth.
Chris Merritt, vice president of the Rule of Law Institute and legal affairs associate for The Australian, noted that Ms. Higgins could get a payout of more than $100,000 in two ways.
First, a legal professional would have to state that the settlement reflected the claim as having a “meaningful prospect of success in a court of law.”
Alternatively, the Attorney General could step in to rule that customary precedent should not apply in this case, as it would be an “exceptional circumstance.”
It is clear that this was not necessary as outside lawyers assisted in handling the claim.