Defence Minister Linda Reynolds was admitted to hospital in Canberra on Wednesday morning for a pre-existing medical condition.
A statement said the move was advised by her cardiologist as a ‘precautionary measure.’
It comes after her former staffer Brittany Higgins, 24, alleged she was raped in the minister’s office by another staffer after a boozy night out in 2019.
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has been admitted to hospital for a pre-existing medical condition
Senator Reynolds has been under scrutiny for how she handled the matter and even cried in Parliament last week.
Health Minister Greg Hunt suggested her illness may be stress-related.
‘We have to remind ourselves that this is the most intense, arguably, environment in Australia,’ he told reporters.
‘All of us need to be aware of the pressures and pains, the impact of each of us on each other… she is a good person and so she needs our support as she has our support,’ he added.
Alleged rape survivor Brittany Higgins
Scott Morrison has phoned Senator Reynolds – who has cancelled a keynote speech at the National Press Club this afternoon – to wish her a quick recovery.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne has taken over Defence duties while Senator Reynolds is on leave.
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 Senator 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.
She claims the encounter occurred five years before the staffer allegedly raped Ms Higgins.
The former intern shared an exchange of Facebook messages, where the man claims the couch in the senator’s office is ‘really comfy’
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 with partner David Sharaz, who quit his job amid her rape allegations against a former male colleague
The latest bombshell comes a day after Ms Higgins’ boyfriend said he has ‘no regrets’ about quitting his job and standing by his partner amid allegations that she was raped in Parliament House.
David Sharaz, who worked in Canberra dealing with federal government clients, said his bosses gave him time off to support her but realised he could not keep his job.
‘My number one priority has always been to support Brittany during this incredibly challenging time,’ he told The Guardian.
‘Unfortunately the events of this last week haven’t been without consequence for Brittany, her family and myself.’
Mr Sharaz is a journalist with extensive experience working for SBS, Sky News and regional broadcaster Win.
He also worked with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet before taking on a role in January dealing with government clients for a media analytics company.
The former press gallery reporter thanked his employer for giving him time off, but said he was unable to do his job and maintain healthy relationships with ministerial offices in light of Ms Higgins’ allegations.
Mr Sharaz said he had ‘absolutely no regrets in choosing to support my partner, and will continue to do so’.
‘The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. Being supportive is the least that I – or any other partner of a victim-survivor can do.
‘Brittany – and many others deserve better.’
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 – leaving the young couple unemployed.
Her alleged rapist has checked himself into a private rehabilitation clinic after losing his job at a large corporation.
A spokesperson from the company said the former Liberal staffer started working for the company in July last year, but would not conform whether any employees had reported sexual misconduct.
‘Given the nature of your inquiry it is not appropriate to comment further,’ the spokesman told the Sydney Morning Herald.
The man worked for four federal Coalition politicians over a four-year period before he gained a spot in Senator Reynolds’ office.
While Ms Higgins described him as a ‘rising star’ and favourite of the minister, others said the accused was ‘social awkward around women’ and had ‘no female friends whatsoever’.
One politician, who wanted to remain anonymous, described the man as ‘uber-ambitious’ and moved to another job with only one day’s notice.
On March 26, 2019, – four days after the alleged rape – he was fired for breaching security at the office.
Senator Reynolds (pictured with Ms Higgins)
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.
Labor frontbencher Michelle Rowland said revelations of a fourth victim were ‘deeply disturbing’.
‘There now appears [there was] an alleged serial rapist on the loose in the ministerial wing of Parliament House,’ she told Sky News on Monday.
‘How on earth have we gotten to this position where we now have the Prime Minister saying he didn’t know and no-one thought it was prudent to tell him?’
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 will be 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.
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.
They asked her to make a formal statement with them later this week, she said.
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.
Pictured: Prime Minister Scott Morrison during Question Time in the House of Representatives on February 22
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.
‘I believe his actions on the night of 29 June and the morning of 30 June 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 Senator 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.’
Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Philip Gaetjens is looking into when the prime minister’s office knew about the alleged rape of Ms Higgins.
Mr Gaetjens was Mr Morrison’s chief of staff between 2015 and 2018.
Government Senate leader Simon Birmingham is working with parties from across the political divide on an investigation into the workplace culture of parliament.
Mr Morrison said he expected the findings would be made public after a quick but thorough inquiry.
Liberal MP Celia Hammond’s review of Liberal Party culture will be absorbed into the cross-party probe.
But the prime minister is refusing to say whether the Gaetjens review of his own office will be released until he reads its contents.
Brittany Higgins is pictured with Scott Morrison in the run up to the 2019 election
Labor leader Anthony Albanese has called for the review to be made public while also criticising the independence of the former senior Liberal staffer.
‘After sports rorts I have zero confidence in any process led by Phil Gaetjens,’ Mr Albanese told a caucus meeting.
Mr Morrison denies he sees the issue as a distraction.
‘I wouldn’t accept that suggestion for a second. They’re important issues and we are addressing them,’ he told reporters.
The Greens are pushing for the cross-party inquiry to be conducted by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins with input from former staffers.
Cabinet minister Greg Hunt is confident the multiple inquiries will achieve results.
‘There will be very clear change and they will be improved systems, and I think that that’s an important thing,’ he said.
Cabinet minister Michaelia Cash, who employed Ms Higgins after the May 2019 election, insists she wasn’t told the incident was an alleged sexual assault.
In October, a media query about the incident was lodged with Senator Cash’s office.
‘She was very concerned that she was going to become a story. It was actually about her job and nothing more,’ Senator Cash said.