Linda Reynold's legal bills in Higgins case paid by taxpayer

Taxpayers will foot the legal bills for Government Services Minister Linda Reynolds. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
Taxpayers will foot the legal bills for Government Services Minister Linda Reynolds. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Taxpayers will cover the legal bills for Government Services Minister Linda Reynolds regarding her involvement in the federal police investigation into rape allegations at Parliament House.

Senior officials in the Attorney-General's Department confirmed in a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday Ms Reynolds had been approved for Commonwealth legal assistance in relation to allegations made by former Liberal staff Brittany Higgins.

The minister had been the only one in government to apply for the department's legal help, the officials said.

Labor senator Murray Watt asked the department's assistant secretary Michael Johnson how much the legal advice had cost the public purse.

He said no invoices had yet been received by the department but a delay between application and invoice issuing was common.

Acting department secretary Iain Anderson cautioned it was standard procedure for ministers to apply for legal assistance but not necessarily use it.

"[Mr Johnson] said no invoice has been received [but] it's not necessarily the case that there will ever be," Mr Anderson said.

"The application itself doesn't mean that they will in fact and go and receive legal assistance."

Attorney-General Michaelia Cash said she had no need to apply for the government's legal assistance, despite Ms Higgins also being a former staffer of Ms Cash.

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The committee also heard legal assistance had been provided to Ms Cash on three separate occasions for her involvement in the raids on the offices of the Australian Workers Union in 2017.

Mr Johnson confirmed the total cost had amounted to $435,000 during that time.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young also confirmed with department figures Assistant Minister for Forestry Jonathon Duniam will also receive legal help following controversial comments he made against her in May.

Mr Duniam appeared on Sky News, accusing Senator Hanson-Young of being related to a child who appeared at a logging protest.

He later apologised for his comments, admitting they were "false and defamatory".

Senator Hanson-Young asked the department how much his legal assistance, and any damages awarded, was going to cost the taxpayer.

Mr Johnson said he had also not received invoices as yet for Mr Duniam's legal fees.

"No invoices have yet been received by the department in relation to this matter, which is not unusual," Mr Johnson said.

"There's often a time lag from the work being undertaken so the answer I have for you at the moment is $0, noting that's premature."

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This story Taxpayers to foot minister's legal bills in Higgins case first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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