Australian PM promises probe after rape allegation

Andrew Cummings
February 17, 2021

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is under intense scrutiny over what he knew about an alleged rape inside Parliament House.

Brittany Higgins said she had feared losing her job after the 2019 incident, and had little support from her bosses.

Ms Higgins, 26, gave a TV interview on Monday that has prompted shock and outrage over her treatment.

"I can assure you there is no such culture and I'm not happy about the fact it was not brought to my attention", Mr Morrison said.

The matter is now under a renewed police investigation.

"That should not have happened, and I do apologise", Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

Political staffer Brittany Higgins then 24 has alleged she was raped by a colleague inside Australia's Parliament House
Political staffer Brittany Higgins then 24 has alleged she was raped by a colleague inside Australia's Parliament House Credit Instagram

Mr Morrison became visibly emotional on Tuesday as he denounced the incident and spoke about being a father of daughters, and how he would feel if they were in the position of Ms Higgins.

The woman told an online news publication and Channel 10 on Monday that she had been raped in the office of the current Defense Minister Linda Reynolds in March 2019 by unnamed colleague who also worked for Morrison's ruling Liberal party.

Firstly, that she was raped by a colleague in a minister's office in Parliament House.

Senator Reynolds says she did not know the alleged incident happened in her office at the time of the meeting. "Saying sorry is often the hardest thing for those of us who work in this place to say", she told lawmakers.

She said the man left the building, leaving her to be discovered by security guards in her cocktail dress the next morning. She said she was then asked to attend a meeting in the office where she says she was assaulted.

In a statement to CNN, Higgins said that she had come forward "because I didn't want what happened to me, to happen to anyone else".

Ms Higgins said Ms Reynolds told her she would be supported if she pursued a police complaint, but she ultimately chose not to in 2019 because she believed it would jeopardise her career.

Ms Higgins said her alleged attacker had been considered a "rising star" of the party.

The allegation has intensified pressure on Mr Morrison after a series of allegations of improper behaviour towards women within the Liberal Party.

What was the PM's response?

Mr Morrison apologised specifically for the meeting with Ms Reynolds in the office where Ms Higgins alleges the rape took place.

The assault allegation has sparked calls for an independent complaints body to be established in Parliament House.

The prime minister has promised a thorough investigation into the government's workplace culture.

"And so, as I've reflected on that overnight, and listened to Brittany, and what she had to shatters me that still, in this day and age, that a young woman can find herself in the vulnerable situation that she was in".

Mr Morrison said that he had discussed Ms Higgins' allegations with his wife, who had helped him "clarify" his views. It felt like I was sort of a body that was there. "These incidents shouldn't have to play out in the media for change to happen", she said.

"It should not take a man having a daughter for him to treat women who've been assaulted with empathy and respect", wrote author Jamila Rizvi on Twitter.

Australian politics has long faced accusations of being a hostile environment for women. It has previously been accused of covering up sexual misconduct.

Many were also quick to point out too, that Morrison imagining his own family members in such horrors doesn't apply to families of colour, and Aboriginal families separated by detention centres, and prisons.

At the time, Mr Morrison was also criticised for interrupting a female minister who was responding to a question about what it's like to be a woman in parliament.

Other reports by iNewsToday