‘What does it take?’: PM peppered
Scott Morrison has defended Linda Reynolds after she apologised for labelling an alleged rape victim a "lying cow".
Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins claimed she was raped in the Defence Minister's parliamentary office in 2019, and has criticised support given to her in the wake of the alleged crime.
Ms Reynolds called the alleged victim a "lying cow" in an outburst in front of staff.
The revelation prompted Ms Higgins to threaten legal action, forcing Ms Reynolds to issue a public apology on Friday.
Mr Morrison conceded the remarks were not "acceptable" but stood by his embattled minister.
"This was a comment made not in a public place. This was a comment made during a period which was very traumatic and very stressful," he said.
"The minister deeply regrets saying these things and has offered an apology, as she should."
News.com.au political editor Samantha Maiden asked the PM: "Why are there no consequences ever for your ministers? If you can get away with saying that without any consequences, is there anything that you would ask a minister to resign over?"
Despite similar questions being posed by other reporters, Mr Morrison didn't answer, and simply reiterated that he thought Senator Reynold's apology was the right thing to do.
"I can only reflect on some of the things I hear about media rooms and the way they talk about people in those places," he said.
"If that were the case, you'd have to clear the whole place, I suspect."
Ms Reynolds sparked outcry on Thursday by apologising to her staff over the comments but not Mr Higgins.
She bowed to pressure from Ms Higgins' lawyers the next day, apologising to the former staffer for "any distress and hurt" the comments caused.
"In response to a letter from Ms Higgins' lawyers yesterday afternoon, discussions are now under way through our legal representatives in an effort to resolve this matter as soon as possible, with any resolution to include an apology," she said.
"However, in the meantime, I want to express how deeply sorry I am for these remarks and for any hurt and distress they have caused."
Ms Reynolds insisted she had never questioned Ms Higgins' account of the night in question, and said the remark was directed at the alleged victim's subsequent criticism of the support offered to her.
But Labor leader Anthony Albanese said Ms Reynolds' apology "didn't cut the mustard" and called on her to resign.
"I find her position untenable, and it should be obvious to all," he said on Friday.
The Defence Minister went on medical last week on advice from her cardiologist.
It was announced the day she was due to front the National Press Club, where she would have faced a faced a grilling over her handling of Ms Higgins' complaint.
Originally published as 'What does it take?': PM peppered