A Liberal senator has rejected suggestions she attempted to "coach" the cross-examination of former employee Brittany Higgins by texting a barrister for the man accused of raping her at Parliament House.
Senator Linda Reynolds testified in the trial of Bruce Lehrmann on Monday, when it also emerged she had asked defence barrister Steven Whybrow to provide her with transcripts of Ms Higgins' evidence.
It was further revealed that the politician's partner had been sitting in the ACT Supreme Court's public gallery as Ms Higgins gave evidence against Lehrmann, who has pleaded not guilty to a charge of engaging in sexual intercourse without consent.
Lehrmann, 27, denies any sexual activity with Ms Higgins in Senator Reynolds' parliamentary office in the early hours of March 23, 2019, when the pair worked for the then-defence industry minister.
Senator Reynolds took the stand as Lehrmann's jury trial entered its third week, admitting she had sought transcripts from Mr Whybrow two hours into his cross-examination of Ms Higgins on October 6.
The court heard she had also sent a second message to the defence barrister, informing him that texts between Ms Higgins and another former staffer of hers, Nicky Hamer, may be "revealing".
Prosecutor Shane Drumgold SC challenged Senator Reynolds about this, asking her to explain her motivation "for attempting to coach the cross-examination" of Ms Higgins.
Senator Reynolds denied having tried to do that, claiming it had never been suggested to her that it would be inappropriate to contact either Mr Drumgold or Mr Whybrow during the trial.
She said Mr Whybrow had not sent her any transcripts, and she had since been told it would have been inappropriate for him to do so.
Mr Drumgold pushed Senator Reynolds further, revealing the politician's partner had "found himself in the back of the court" during Ms Higgins' evidence.
The prosecutor suggested the senator had been receiving updates from her partner on the alleged rape victim's testimony.
Senator Reynolds also rejected this proposition, saying it had been made "very clear" to her that it would not be appropriate for her partner to be telling her what had been said in court before she gave her own evidence.
Like fellow senator Michaelia Cash, who also employed Ms Higgins as a ministerial staffer in the former Coalition government, Senator Reynolds disputed the suggestion she had known about the rape allegations at an earlier point in time than she claimed to have been made aware.
Asked by Mr Drumgold if it would have been "politically embarrassing" for the allegations to be made public ahead of the May 2019 federal election, Senator Reynolds disagreed.
Ms Higgins, who did not pursue a formal police complaint against Lehrmann until last year, has previously said she felt pressured by the Liberal Party not to officially report the alleged rape.
But on Monday, Senator Reynolds insisted she had never tried to dissuade Ms Higgins from pursuing the matter with police.
The senator also denied being "politically invested" in the outcome of the trial, though she admitted she was "interested" in the result.
Mr Drumgold finished by putting it to Senator Reynolds that she had decided to deal with the events of March 2019 by adoping an approach in which "the less [she] knew, the better".
Senator Reynolds again disagreed, saying that was "absolutely not" correct.
Chief Justice Lucy McCallum indicated to the jury at the conclusion of Senator Reynolds' evidence that the prosecution's case was now complete, with the exception of two documents that would need to be tendered to the court on Tuesday morning.
The trial continues.
MORE COVERAGE OF THE TRIAL:
- 'Political suicide': Senator denies pretending not to know about alleged rape
- 'Nothing was fine after what you did': Higgins confronts alleged rapist, denies being 'monster'
- Lehrmann 'in a hurry to get out' after alleged rape: parliament security
- 'My world has been rocked': Lehrmann tells police of 'Bruce the rapist' impersonator
- 'Broken, shattered person': Light in Higgins 'turned off' after alleged rape
- 'Bruce got quite handsy': What Higgins told parliament police after alleged rape
- Higgins 'unavailable' to continue cross-examination in rape trial, jury told
- Higgins had planned book before being 'blown away' by $325k offer, court hears
- 'So incorrect': Higgins hits back at 'deeply insulting' cross-examination
- 'I wanted her out': Higgins denies attempt to hide evidence, admits 'scrubbing' phone
- Higgins secretly recorded 'weirdest phone call' with Cash after quitting
- 'It may sound ridiculous': Higgins admits 'mistake' about 'weird anchor' dress
- Meeting with minister at site of alleged rape felt like 'scare tactic': Higgins
- 'Like this weird anchor': Higgins kept dress under bed while weighing up action
- Higgins 'rebuffed kiss' from accused rapist before allegedly being 'trapped'
- Public 'sold a pup' with 'unstoppable snowball' story of alleged Higgins rape