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Abetz denies allegations of 'slut-shaming' Higgins

Liberal Senator Eric Abetz reacts during Senate Estimates at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING

Liberal Senator Eric Abetz reacts during Senate Estimates at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Liberal Senator Eric Abetz has been accused of slut-shaming Brittany Higgins and saying she was "so disgustingly drunk" she "would sleep with anybody".

Senator Abetz has categorically denied he made the alleged comments which were aired by Tasmanian Speaker Sue Hickey under parliamentary privilege on Wednesday.

Ms Hickey told state parliament she spoke with Senator Abetz on March 1 at a Hobart City Council citizenship ceremony and asked if a federal minister accused of a rape that occurred about 30 years ago was Christian Porter.

"The senator quickly responded that yes, it was the first law officer of the nation, Christian Porter, but not to worry, the woman is dead and the law will protect him," she said. Mr Porter has denied the allegations.

"He then said 'as for that Higgins girl, anybody who is so disgustingly drunk who would sleep with anybody, could have slept with one of our spies and put the security of our nation at risk'."

Ex-Liberal staffer Ms Higgins alleges she was raped by a colleague in the office of federal Defence Minister Linda Reynolds in 2019. She has since made a complaint to police.

Senator Abetz told a senate committee he "rejected and categorically denied" the "mischievous assertions made under parliamentary privilege".

"To suggest that I'd make light of a rape allegation is horrendous," he said.

Senator Abetz has questioned the timing of Ms Hickey's accusations and says she never raised concerns with him.

Ms Hickey announced earlier this week she was quitting the state Liberals to run as an independent after being told she would not be endorsed by the party for the next election.

She made waves in 2018 when she voted with the Labor and Greens opposition to take the role of Speaker ahead of the Liberal's preferred option.

"Its noteworthy Ms Hickey has made her assertions some three weeks after she alleges they occurred," Senator Abetz said in a formal statement.

"Indeed, a fortnight later when we had a chance meeting in a coffee shop in Launceston Ms Hickey actually offered to buy me a cup of coffee which I politely declined because I was about to meet someone.

"What has changed? The premier telling her on Sunday she was no longer wanted by the Liberal Party."

Mr Abetz says Ms Hickey is "trying to destroy the party" on her way out the door.

Ms Hickey also told parliament she asked Senator Abetz why security guards hadn't stepped in, given how drunk Ms Higgins appeared to be when she was observed arriving at Parliament House.

"He responded abruptly that if any security member dared to question the validity of access to the parliament by anyone who held a security pass, they would be sacked," Ms Hickey said.

"I felt sick, knowing that the last line of protection for this young woman was not able to be provided due to the practices and protocol of that parliament.

"I accept that these are deeply held views by the senator, however, they are not endorsed by our wider community who view this judgment as slut-shaming.

"I know there are many good men, not only in our community but also in our Liberal Party, who would also find these comments completely unacceptable and out of touch."

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein says he plans to meet with Senator Abetz and described the comments, if true, as "appalling".

© AAP 2021