Scott Morrison has responded to claims a second woman was raped by the same government advisor accused of sexually assaulting his junior colleague, Brittany Higgins.
The Prime Minister said on Saturday he was ‘sickened’ when he heard the latest revelations and that the incident is ‘very distressing’.
He acknowledged there is a ‘problem’ within the workplace culture of parliament.
Ms Higgins came forward this week with allegations she was raped by the man, described as a ‘rising star’ in the Liberal party, in Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ Parliament House office in 2019.
Mr Morrison maintains he did not know about the alleged assault until February 12, but an internal investigation into what his office knew is ongoing and is focusing on three senior aides.
The second staffer, who has asked to remain anonymous, said she held the government responsible for her alleged assault.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured) told reporters on Saturday he was ‘sickened’ when he heard the latest revelations and that the incident is ‘very distressing’
Ms Higgins came forward this week with allegations she was raped by the man, described as a ‘rising star’ in the Liberal party, in Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ Parliament House office in 2019
‘If this had been properly dealt with by the government in 2019 this would not have happened to me,’ she told The Australian.
‘I am telling my story because I want to support Brittany [Higgins] and I want to help shine a light on this awful culture.’
Mr Morrison pledged that more needs to be done in order protect young woman working in Canberra’ political circles.
‘These events truly do sicken me,’ he said.
‘I think we have a problem in the parliament and the workplace culture that exists there that we must continue to improve.’
Another Liberal staffer has come forward and said she was raped by the same staffer who is accused of assaulting Brittany Higgins (pictured)
The latest woman to come forward said she had met the ministerial advisor in 2016 when he was working for Senator Reynolds during the election campaign.
The second complainant said she felt she would not have been assaulted if the government had dealt with Brittany Higgins’ (pictured) complaint in 2019
After he was fired following Ms Higgins’ alleged rape the pair stayed in touch and met again in 2020 when they went out for a meal and he bought her drinks.
‘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.’
A family friend of the woman confirmed to the newspaper she had made the same allegations to her after the alleged rape.
Ms Higgins has claimed Mr Morrison’s chief of staff John Kunkel, his private secretary Yaron Finkelstein, and senior adviser Julian Leembruggen knew about the alleged assault before February 12.
That is the date Mr Morrison told Parliament his office became aware of the allegations.
‘I can only say that at all times the minister’s who had knowledge of this incident that took place at parliament house sought to have that matter taken up by the police and for it to be investigated, he said on Saturday.
‘I have no doubt that these events will have triggered the experiences of many young women, in particular, women and men around the country who have gone through similar experiences. And that is deeply distressing.
‘I am glad that investigation is now once again under way.’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured) has maintained he did not know about the alleged rape until February 12, as an internal inquiry seeks to find out when his office knew
Explosive text messages have cast serious doubt over when the prime minister’s office first knew about the alleged rape
But explosive text messages shed doubt on the claim the prime minister’s office did not know about the alleged assault.
In the April 3, 2019, message a fellow Liberal staffer told Ms Higgins he had spoken directly with a member of Mr Morrison’s staff.
‘Spoke to PMO. He was mortified to hear about it and how things have been handled,’ he said.
‘He’s going to discuss with COS — no one else. I flagged need for Councillor and desire to be closer to home during election.’
PMO refers to the prime minister’s office and COS is shorthand for chief of staff.
Scott Morrison (pictured right with Ms Higgins) claims his office did not find out about the alleged rape until last week and he was not informed until Monday
On Friday Ms Higgins made a statement saying she would proceed with a formal complaint to police as she wants ‘my perpetrator to face the full force of the law’.
‘Today I have re-engaged with Australian Federal Police and will proceed with a formal complaint regarding the crime committed against me in what should be the safest building in Australia,’ she said in a statement on Friday.
‘The Australian Federal Police have made assurances to me that they will handle this matter thoroughly and transparently.
Ms Higgins said she expected a ‘truly independent investigation’ into how her matter was handled by different government offices and others who knew about her circumstances.
She also demanded a review into the conditions under which ministerial and parliamentary staff are employed.
‘Political advisers have very few protections, resources and confidential reporting mechanisms to address any workplace issues,’ Ms Higgins said.
‘Too often, a toxic workplace culture can emerge that enables inappropriate conduct and this is exacerbated by the disparity in the power dynamics.’
On Friday Ms Higgins (pictured) made a statement saying she would proceed with a formal complaint to police as she wants ‘my perpetrator to face the full force of the law’
Mr Morrison’s former chief of staff, the current Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Phil Gaetjens, has been tasked with leading a review into departmental communications regarding the incident.
But Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese on Saturday criticised the appointment of Mr Gaetjens, saying the review would not be independent.
He said it was clear that Ms Higgins was ‘made to feel there would be consequences for her career if she pursued this matter’.
‘You need that arm’s length capacity to deal with these issues, independent of government or any political party, to deal with it transparently and it needs to have the authority to deal with it,’ Mr Albanese told reporters.
‘We know violence against women and children is a scourge, it is prevalent in all areas of society, but the parliament of Australia should be setting an example … we should be an institution people can look to for best practice.’
Ms Higgins has also demanded a review into the conditions under which ministerial and parliamentary staff are employed.
‘Political advisers have very few protections, resources and confidential reporting mechanisms to address any workplace issues,’ she said.
BRITTANY HIGGINS’ FULL STATEMENT
Today I have reengaged with Australian Federal Police and will proceed with a formal complaint regarding the crime committed against me in what should be the safest building in Australia.
By publicly coming forward with my experience in Parliament House, I’ve sought to achieve two things.
Firstly, I want a comprehensive police investigation into what happened to me on 22/23 March 2019 and for my perpetrator to face the full force of the law.
The Australian Federal Police have made assurances to me that they will handle this matter thoroughly and transparently. I would also ask that they handle it in a timely manner as to date, I have waited a long time for justice.
Secondly, given my experience, I am determined to drive significant reform in the way the Australian Parliament handles issues of this nature and treats ministerial and parliamentary staff more generally.
I expect a truly independent investigation into how my matter was handled inside the government including offices where I worked, and other offices and parties that had knowledge of my circumstances.
I believe that getting to the bottom of what happened to me and how the system failed me is critical to creating a new framework for political staff that ensures genuine cultural change and restores the trust of staff.
In addition to an independent investigation into what happened to me, I demand a significant review into the conditions under which ministerial and parliamentary staff are employed and how we can do better.
Political advisers have very few protections, resources and confidential reporting mechanisms to address any workplace issues. They are not public servants and work in an extremely high-pressure environment. Too often, a toxic workplace culture can emerge that enables inappropriate conduct and this is exacerbated by the disparity in the power dynamics.
How ministerial and parliamentary staff are treated is a bipartisan issue that impacts staff from across the political spectrum and must be treated as such.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly told the Parliament that I should be given ‘agency’ going forward. I don’t believe that agency was provided to me over the past two years but I seize it now and have advised the Prime Minister’s Office that I expect a voice in framing the scope and terms of reference for a new and significant review into the conditions for all ministerial and parliamentary staff. It is important that the reform is real and drives change beyond dealing with just what happened to me, and how the system let me down.
From the outset, I have driven by my desire to ensure that no other person would have to go through the trauma that I experienced during my time in Parliament House.
I was failed repeatedly, but I now have my voice, and I am determined to use to ensure that this is never allowed to happen to another member of staff again.
This has been a very difficult and trying week for me, my partner and my family. I would ask please that my privacy is respected as I now deal with the processes I have outlined in this statement. I do not intend to make any further public comment at this time.