Former liberal staffer Brittany Higgins has slammed panellists on ABC's Insiders program over a segment discussing recent high-profile sexual assault allegations tied to Parliament House, including her own.
During an interview with The Project, Ms Higgins alleged she was raped in 2019 in Defence Minister Linda Reynolds' office, and withdrew her police complaint out of fear of losing her job.
She reinstated the complaint on Wednesday, with three more women having now come forward with claims they too were victims of the same man that allegedly assaulted her.
A historical rape allegation also surfaced this week involving a woman who claimed to have been raped in 1988 by a man who is now a federal cabinet minister.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Labor senator Penny Wong and Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young received a letter on Friday alleging the sexual assault took place against the woman, who took her life in June last year.
That letter is now in the hands of the Australian Federal Police.
Ms Higgins criticised the handling of the sensitive topic on Insiders on Sunday morning, and called out language used by panellists including West Australian journalist Lanaii Scarr, The Australian journalist Rosie Lewis, and Australian Financial Review journalist Phillip Coorey.
"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," Ms Higgins tweeted, sharing clips from the program.
Ms Higgins highlighted one comment from Coorey in which he expressed how he would handle the allegations if he were in the shoes of the alleged perpetrator's lawyer.
"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 past 10 days looking for some way you can torpedo any potential trial," he told the panel.
In reference to a letter sent from the Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw to MPs and Senators, Lewis pointed out his plea for alleged victims to avoid speaking with the media and to take complaints straight to police.
"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, even though two years ago she did go to police," Lewis told the panel.
"Obviously he was providing advice to the prime minister, but he also wanted to ensure that everyone knows the first point of call needs to be police," Scarr added.
Scarr too came to the defence of the "good men" currently working in parliament.
She expressed it had been difficult for all women working in parliament for the past fortnight "and it's been difficult for the men in the building as well, that are good men".
There was also debate over the timeline of events concerning when the alleged rape was passed on to Ms Reynolds, who was Ms Higgins' boss at the time, and who she then decided to tell.
Senator Reynolds has repeatedly said she didn't tell the prime minister out of respect for Ms Higgins' privacy.
Mr Morrison said the minister should have raised the rape allegation with him without identifying the people involved, telling parliament on Thursday, "I wish she had, but she did not".
The man accused of raping Ms Higgins was sacked after the incident because of a security breach on the night of the alleged rape.
Four inquiries are underway, including a multi-party investigation aimed at ensuring parliament is a safe working environment.
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