Former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins says she is disappointed that ‘politicking’ has replaced action on the ‘fundamental problems’ at Parliament House.
Ms Higgins, a former adviser to Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, came forward a fortnight ago claiming she was raped by a senior colleague in Parliament House after a night out in 2019.
Three other women have since accused the same man of molesting or raping them, prompting an investigation into workplace culture at Parliament House.
This is why people don’t come forward.
The politicking, the blame shifting – none of which address the fundamental problems evident in the culture at Parliament House.
I’m not surprised, just disappointed. pic.twitter.com/ws5m9MJbzQ
— Brittany Higgins (@BrittHiggins_) February 28, 2021
Ms Higgins posted on Twitter a clip from ABC Insiders where a panel discussed the issue.
‘This is why people don’t come forward,’ Ms Higgins wrote.
‘The politicking, the blame shifting – none of which address the fundamental problems evident in the culture at Parliament House.
‘I’m not surprised, just disappointed.’
In the clip, Australian Financial Review political editor Philip Coorey said the alleged rapist’s defence lawyer would likely be combing the heavy media coverage.
‘If I was that guy’s defence lawyer, the perpetrator, I’d be going very carefully over everything that has been said and written in the last 10 days looking for some way you can torpedo any potential trial,’ he said.
Australian Financial Review political editor Philip Coorey (second from left) said the alleged rapist’s defence lawyer would likely be trawling the media for ways to torpedo a trial
Ms Higgins lodged a formal complaint on Wednesday, triggering an active police investigation into her alleged rape.
Australian Federal Police commissioner Reece Kershaw sent a letter to the Prime Minister warning politicians that delays in reporting crimes can damage investigations and risk a perpetrator re-offending.
Rosie Lewis, federal politics reporter at The Australian, told the Insiders panel there was a warning implicit in the police letter to victims not to talk to media.
‘There was also a warning in that letter… to the alleged victims: don’t go through the media,’ she said.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton (pictured) confirmed Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw told him about the alleged assault on February 11
Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured right with alleged rape survivor Brittany Higgins) said he is confident Linda Reynolds will keep her job.
‘Now, you can put two and two together. Was he talking to anyone in particular? No. But, in the case of Brittany Higgins she did go to the media.’
Ms Reynolds has been under fire for her handling of the incident and for not telling the Prime Minister.
Ms Lewis said the main concerns were not how Ms Reynolds handled the rape allegation in 2019 – but about the political consequences now.
‘It’s more the fact you’ve had pretty bad political fallout over the past fortnight,’ she said.
Ms Reynolds has been released from hospital and is expected to take two weeks’ leave in the wake of the alleged rape scandal.
She was taken to a hospital in Canberra last week as a ‘precautionary measure’ relating to an existing condition on the advice of her cardiologist.
‘As a precautionary measure, Minister Reynolds has this morning been admitted to a Canberra Hospital,’ a statement said last week.
Ms Reynolds came under scrutiny for her handling of the matter and her treatment of Ms Higgins.
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has been released from hospital and is expected to take two weeks’ leave in the wake of the Britany Higgins alleged rape scandal
She will return to her office in mid-March.
Scott Morrison said he was confident she would keep her job despite copping criticism over her handling of Brittany Higgins’ alleged rape allegations.
‘I have great confidence in the work that she’s doing. I thank those colleagues, whether from the government or elsewhere, that have expressed their support for Linda and she certainly has mine,’ he said.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne has taken over Defence duties while Ms Reynolds is on leave.
Ms Higgins, who has said she was not supported well enough after her alleged rape, wished Senator Reynolds a speedy recovery
Mr Morrison’s comments came just hours after Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton admitted he knew about the alleged rape but chose not to tell the prime minister about it to avoid compromising a potential police investigation.
Mr Dutton confirmed Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw informed him about the alleged assault on February 11, four days before Mr Morrison says he was told.
Ms Higgins spoke to police on February 5, with the AFP then informing Mr Dutton because it was a politically sensitive investigation.
Alleged rape survivor Brittany Higgins
Since Ms Higgins made her allegation public last week, three other women have come forward to accuse the same man of sexual assault or harassment.
The man was sacked after the alleged rape for breaching security rules by entering Ms Reynolds’ office at night.
The allegations have prompted another former intern to share intimate details about her experiences with the man on a couch in the office of a Nationals senator at Parliament House in 2014.
While she says their encounters were consensual, she claims she felt ‘pressured’ to have sex with him on other occasions.
‘Nothing ‘rapey’ happened. But that makes me feel really ill. I feel like he wanted to [take me there] because he wanted to show off his power. He was obviously much more important than I was,’ the woman told news.com.au.
‘There was one time I kept saying, ‘No, I am really tired, I don’t want to do anything’ and he kept being like, ‘Oh, come on. Come on’.’
She also shared Facebook messages which refer to the couch in the senator’s office, which the man insists is ‘comfortable’ as he invited her there.
‘The lounge in his office is really comfy, good for doing readings. Haha,’ he wrote.
The woman replied: ‘mmm, depends, do you tend to talk a lot whilst studying?’
The man adds he’s usually ‘a good boy’ and has an essay to write.
The former intern shared an exchange of Facebook messages, where the man claims the couch in the senator’s office is ‘really comfy’
Brittany Higgins with partner David Sharaz, who quit his job amid her rape allegations against a former male colleague
She claims the encounter occurred five years before the staffer allegedly raped Ms Higgins.
The woman was a university student at the time and interning for a Labor MP.
The man, whom she described as ‘ambitious’ with dreams of becoming Prime Minister, was also an intern at the time for a Nationals MP.
She first met him at drinks where she got ‘very drunk’ and went back to his house.
‘We kissed that night. I was very drunk and he was totally sober,’ the woman recalled.
‘I never felt weird about that but there were other instances where he definitely pressured me. We never had proper sex.’
The woman says she will come forward to police to make a statement if it helps with their inquiries.
Brittany Higgins, then 24, has alleged she was raped by a colleague inside Parliament House in March 2019
Pictured: Prime Minister Scott Morrison during Question Time in the House of Representatives on February 22
Ms Higgins pictured with Senator Micahela Cash (left) former Liberal Party deputy leader Julie Bishop (right)
Ms Higgins previously said she did not immediately report the alleged rape to police out of fear that she would lose her ‘dream job’, but resigned earlier this month before making the allegations last Monday.
Her alleged rapist has checked himself into a private rehabilitation clinic after losing his job at a large corporation.
Two more women accused the former government worker of rape after Ms Higgins went public last week, and now a fourth alleged victim has taken her story to Canberra police on Sunday.
The fourth woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the ABC the ‘really sleazy’ alleged rapist stroked her thigh on a night out in 2017.
Ms Higgins’ claim, which was formally stated to police on Wednesday, opened the floodgates for others to share their stories.
The latest woman to come forward was with colleagues at Canberra’s Public Bar in 2017 when the alleged rapist touched her thigh uninvited.
She said it was not the first or last time she received unwanted advances from male colleagues.
‘By that time, I was just so used to sexual harassment I just brushed it off,’ she said.
Since Ms Higgins made her allegation public last week, three other women have come forward to accuse the same man of sexual assault or harassment
After speaking to officers from the local police station on Sunday afternoon, the woman said she received a call from the Australian Federal Police’s Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Team.
The third woman said she was assaulted while working as a coalition volunteer during the 2016 election campaign.
She was barely out of school at the time of the attack, which allegedly occurred after a night out drinking with the then-political staffer.
During the night out, she claims he bought her several rounds of ‘double strength’ vodkas and three tequila shots.
The boozy night prompted the young volunteer, who had never been drunk before, to vomit in the nightclub bathroom.
When everybody else had left, the woman said she told him she was going to catch an Uber home, and he suggested they go back to his hotel room ‘around the corner’ instead, and he would ‘look after her’, she told The Australian.
After they arrived, she passed out while laying on his bed and allegedly woke up with her clothes undone and the staffer allegedly lying on top of her.
The woman, who was a virgin, said she was uncertain as to whether he was conscious or sleeping, but she bolted from the room into the hotel lobby toilet, where she discovered she was ‘bleeding’.
Feeling embarrassed and ashamed, the woman made her way home and did not tell police, her family or friends.
Scott Morrison said he is confident Linda Reynolds will keep her job despite copping criticism over her handling of Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations
Prime Minister Scott Morrison alongside Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and Water Resources Minister David Littleproud at Parliament House
‘I believe his actions on the night of June 29 and the morning of June 30 constitute sexual assault, because he performed or tried to perform sexual acts on me whilst I was severely intoxicated and unable to provide valid and informed consent,’ she told The Australian.
‘I later realised I was so drunk, I was not able to give any consent’
‘Hearing Brittany Higgins’ story, it was so eerily similar, it made me think this person has a pattern of behaviour.’
The second alleged victim claimed she met the ministerial advisor in 2016 when he was working for Ms Reynolds during the election campaign.
‘We went back to my place and we were kissing… we were going to have sex and I said he had to wear a condom,’ she said.
‘He refused and we argued and I told him five or six times that we couldn’t have sex unless he wore a condom. I was drunk and he just got on top of me, I said no, and then he was inside of me and I kept saying no.’