Calls are growing for the national anti-corruption commission to investigate the Albanese government’s payout to Brittany Higgins.
Legal affairs commentator Chris Merrett told Sky News Australia that the payment was looking increasingly suspicious in light of revelations from Bruce Lehrmann’s interview with the Seven Network on Sunday.
Higgins, who claimed to have been raped by fellow Liberal staffer Lehrmann, was reportedly paid around $3m in compensation by the government late last year.
Lehrmann has always denied the allegations against him, and court proceedings were abandoned after a juror was found to be conducting private research.
An investigation into the entire affair by Seven’s Spotlight program alleged close relationships between senior Labor politicians and the Higgins camp which raised questions about the compensation payout.
Merrett said secrecy around the payment to Higgins necessitated a “great deal of scrutiny” to be placed on the process.
“This is taxpayer’s money we don’t even know exactly how much, we don’t why it was paid out,” he said.
“Remember… there’s been no finding of wrongdoing against anybody over the Brittany Higgins affair.
“I think it needs to be subjected to a little bit of scrutiny and the new national anti-corruption commission is perfectly established when it opens its doors to have a look at this.”
Ms Higgins has disputed reports the payout was valued at $3 million.
“The settlement was well below the reported figure the media has run with,” she said in February.
Sky News host Sharri Markson has said the payout could be probed by the new national anti-corruption commission (NACC) when it officially commences operations on July 1.
Markson said on Monday the Spotlight revelations had prompted some people to begin considerations for a referral.
Nationals leader David Littleproud said he would welcome the compensation payout being probed by the NACC.
“I think the Australian public has every expectation to understand and appreciate how the Finance Minister got to that determination of the quantity, and the amount, and the speed in which the decision - and the transparency of that decision - was made,” he said.