Defence minister Linda Reynolds has gone on medical leave after being admitted to a Canberra hospital on Wednesday morning.
Reynolds was admitted as a “precautionary measure”, according to a statement released by her office, and has taken leave following advice from her cardiologist relating to a pre-existing medical condition.
Foreign affairs minister Marise Payne will act as defence minister until Reynolds returns, the timing of which has not been specified.
She was scheduled to speak at the National Press Club on Wednesday, but the address was cancelled.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Thursday morning that Reynolds’ condition has been improving.
“Under doctor’s instructions she’ll remain under observation for a few more days yet. And she’s looking forward to returning to her duties and getting on with the job,” he said.
Reynolds has recently faced mounting pressure to answer questions regarding her handling of the alleged rape of former ministerial staffer Brittany Higgins in her office on March 22, 2019.
Earlier this week Reynolds refused to answer questions in the Senate due to concerns for Higgins’ privacy, which Higgins has criticised.
The minister recently apologised for holding a meeting with Higgins in the office where the alleged sexual assault occurred just days later, on April 1.
She and Morrison have previously falsely stated that Higgins and Reynolds had met with the Australian Federal Police that same day. This week Reynolds corrected herself, stating that she met with the AFP once, on April 4, “at their request”.
When asked on Thursday whether Reynolds’ position as Defence minister was still tenable, Morrison said:
“Of course it is. Why wouldn’t it be? She’s doing a great job and I have great confidence in the work that she’s doing. And I thank those colleagues, whether from the government or elsewhere, that have expressed their support for Linda and she certainly has mine.”