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Leaked Brittany Higgins texts to be raised in Federal Court

Lisa Wilkinson was "inextricably intertwined" with Brittany Higgins, Ten's lawyer has testified.

Lisa Wilkinson was "inextricably intertwined" with Brittany Higgins, Ten's lawyer has testified. Photo: Getty

Leaked text messages between Brittany Higgins and her partner appear to have sparked another legal stoush – this time in the Federal Court.

Reports of text messages between Ms Higgins and her partner David Sharaz have emerged in multiple media outlets in recent weeks, including The Australian and other News Corp publications, as well as the Daily Mail.

A flurry reported on Thursday appeared to suggest the couple discussed potentially strategising with Finance Minister Katy Gallagher while she was in opposition, after Ms Higgins’ rape allegation became public.

One of the published texts claims that Senator Gallagher was “really invested” in Ms Higgins’ case.

The messages also appear to show Mr Sharaz claim Prime Minister Anthony Albanese gave him his number and offered to fly to Canberra to meet Ms Higgins.

On Thursday, Mr Albanese denied co-ordinating with the former Liberal staffer, and said he had full confidence in Senator Gallagher.

“I had not met Brittany Higgins until I met her publicly – publicly – on the same day that she met Scott Morrison,’’ he said.

Ms Higgins alleges she was raped by another former Liberal staffer, Bruce Lehrmann, in 2019 in the ministerial office of then Coalition minister Linda Reynolds, for whom they both worked.

Mr Lehrmann’s trial on the allegations was abandoned late last year due to juror misconduct. He has consistently denied the accusations.

On Thursday, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton used the emergence of the messages to urge Mr Albanese to “front up” about what he knew about Ms Higgins’ allegations before they became public.

“Until we know the facts, we won’t know the answers to all the questions that need to be answered and the Prime Minister and others giving different statements at different points,” he said.

It is the first time that either Mr Albanese or Mr Dutton has commented on the matter since Mr Lehrmann’s high-profile criminal trial was abandoned.

Opposition backs formal NACC referral

But late on Thursday, concerns appeared to be growing about the source of the text message leak.

News.com.au reported that Network Ten and journalist Lisa Wilkinson were “preparing to go to war” over the texts, as well as a separate audio recording of Wilkinson and Ms Higgins.

News said Ten’s lawyers were trying to determine who had access to the material.

News and The Guardian have also reported that the leaked material will be raised in Federal Court on Friday, during a hearing of Mr Lehrmann’s defamation case against multiple media outlets.

“We have not had access to the phone and audiotape you refer to,’’ solicitor Paul Svilans told news.com.au on Thursday.

“In fact, we are at present actually seeking access to the audiotape for the purpose of the defamation proceedings for the reason that we don’t have it.”

Elsewhere, there is another widening argument over the confidential settlement Ms Higgins reached with the Commonwealth in December 2022, after she launched legal action against her employers in the previous Coalition government.

Senator Reynolds indicated earlier this week she might refer the compensation payment to the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

Mr Dutton has backed that call.

“Linda Reynolds is a person of great honour and she feels rightly aggrieved in the process here,” he said.

“I suspect this would be one of the first issues that the integrity commission would deal with.

“We’re talking about multimillions of dollars here. We’re talking about senior ministers of the government potentially having conspired or at least having collaborated with individuals, and a lot of that needs to be explained.”

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, who was involved in the mediation process, said Ms Higgins’ settlement was entirely in accordance with the law.

“It’s very common for the Commonwealth to settle claims on the basis of agreed confidentiality,” he said.

“It’s very often in the Commonwealth’s interests that there be confidentiality and, often in the case of sexual harassment claims, there is a desire on the part of the claimant to keep the matter confidential.”

1800 RESPECT 1800 737 732

National Sexual Abuse and Redress Support Service 1800 211 028

Lifeline 131 114

beyondblue 1300 224 636

-with AAP

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