Australian minister Linda Reynolds settles case after calling aide ‘lying cow’

Australia’s Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has paid compensation to a former aide who she called a “lying cow” after she alleged she had been raped by a former colleague.

The confidential settlement also includes a donation to a sexual assault charity.

She apologised to Brittany Higgins for making the slur at her in her office in February.

Ms Higgins had publicly accused another staff member of raping her in 2019.

In public the minister had stood behind her former employee when she made the accusation.

Ms Reynolds remains on sick leave and on Friday posted an apology on social media, adding she “did not mean it in the sense it may have been understood”.

“Given that the comment was made public, which I never intended, I also want to retract it and unreservedly apologise to Brittany Higgins and acknowledge the hurt and distress it caused to her,” she explained.

In a statement, Ms Higgins said she accepted the apology.

“I am pleased that the minister has now withdrawn her comments and I accept her apology to me,” Ms Higgins said. She described this period as “immensely challenging”.

“Any monies I have received from the minister, as part of this settlement of my claim against her over and above my legal costs, will be paid in full to an organisation that provides counselling and support for survivors of sexual assault and abuse in the Canberra area. These funds will assist them in this important work,” she explained.

When asked earlier this week if Ms Reynolds should quit, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said her remark had come “in her private office in a stressful week”.

Last month, the former political adviser alleged she had been attacked in Ms Reynolds’ office at Parliament House after a night out in 2019. She said she wanted a “comprehensive police investigation into what happened to me”.

The man was later sacked for a separate reason.