Brittany Higgins: Labor frontbencher warns of deeply disturbing condition
Pressure is mounting on the government, with one senior politician claiming it seemed there was a alleged serial rapist on the loose in Parliament.
After a fourth woman came forward to make accusations against the same former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins accused of rape – a Labor frontbencher has warned it seemed there was a “alleged serial rapist on the loose in Parliament House”.
On Monday morning, The Australian reported the third complainant was barely out of school when was she was allegedly assaulted after a night drinking with the man.
She said he promised to “look after her” at his hotel just around the corner, after buying her rounds of double strength vodkas and three tequila shots.
She alleges that she woke up with her blouse buttons opened and her jeans pulled down and the staffer “lying on top of me”, and later discovered she was bleeding after fleeing the room.
The Weekend Australian revealed on Saturday that a second former Liberal staffer also alleged she was attacked by the same man – who is alleged to have raped Ms Higgins in 2019.
The ABC also reported a fouth woman on Monday, who alleged the same ex-staffer made unwanted sexual advances towards her in a bar.
The developments have shocked the Shadow Minister for Media, Michelle Rowland, who said the situation was “deeply disturbing”.
“There now appears to be an alleged serial rapist on the loose in the ministerial wing of Parliament House,” she told Sky News.
“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? ”
Mr Morrison told parliament he did not know about Ms Higgins’ accusations until Monday last week, although his office fielded media inquiries about it the previous Friday. Ms Higgins has said senior advisors in Mr Morrison’s office were aware in 2019.
Today, Labor ratcheted up its assault on Scott Morrison, with Senate leader Penny Wong saying that "the worst part of the cover-up was the Prime Minister."
"Senator Wong told the Senate, "There are major concerns about what has been said (regarding the matter of Ms. Higgins) within the Morrison government and even within the office of Mr. Morrison.
Questions regarding who knew what and when and if their reaction was sufficient. We were told that the suspected rapist had been dismissed because of a lack of confidentiality.
We are advised that the two most senior employees in the office of the Prime Minister, the Chief of Staff and the Principal Private Secretary, have been informed of the termination.
For a security violation, the suspected suspect has been dismissed. Ms Higgins hasn't been. The clear inference is that at the time these decisions were taken, sexual harassment was recognized.
Adam Leigh, another Labor frontbencher, said it was clear that there must be some kind of system change.
We are only seeing more and more of these revelations come out, and I think it highlights the need for this kind of complaint to be treated even better within parliament.
"He told ABC Canberra, "You look at Britain, which now has a redress system that sits completely apart from members of parliament and does not work across party structures, which I feel is one of the real issues here.
This is an unusual workplace in which people are complaining to those who have the power to decide their future in some way.
"And also not only their futures within this building, but their futures outside if they want to function within the wider political movement.
So it makes a lot of sense to me to have a complaint procedure that looks far more like the sort of complaint procedure that other big companies have.
"Depoliticising it, so that you can effectively have people's complaints judged on their merits, which in many of these cases in the past just clearly hasn't happened."
"Finance Minister Simon Birmingham states that the staffer's further allegations of sexual assault weigh on him "very, very heavily.
He told The Sydney Morning Herald that he is working on terms of reference for an objective study of the culture of parliament.
"Mr. Birmingham said, "It is of immense sorrow that Ms. Higgins or others have felt that they could not make those decisions and that we must ensure that the structures help them in the future and that they feel that confidence again in making those decisions.
"I would welcome the input of Ms Higgins and any former employees who wish to assist in shaping and participating in the review process."