'I expect a voice': Brittany Higgins issues new demands to Prime Minister

·4-min read

A former Liberal staffer who says she was sexually assaulted by a male colleague inside Parliament House will proceed with a formal complaint to police.

Brittany Higgins came forward this week with allegations she was raped in 2019, and now says 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.

Brittany Higgins pictured in teary interview.
Brittany Higgins announced Friday she would be reengaging the AFP to investigate her case. Source: The Project

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."

The former Liberal staffer said Prime Minister Scott Morrison had mentioned more than once she should be given "agency" going forward, and that she was indeed seizing it now.

Ms Higgins says she expects to have a voice in framing the scope and terms of reference for a review into conditions for staff, saying it is important that real change is achieved.

She said that from the outset of going public about her alleged rape, she had done so with the aim that no other person should go through what she had experienced.

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Explosive text messages have cast serious doubt over when the prime minister's office first knew about the alleged rape.

Mr Morrison claims his office did not find out about the alleged rape until last week and he was not informed until Monday.

But a text message exchange between Ms Higgins and a fellow Liberal staffer within a fortnight of the incident calls this account into question.

In the message, the Liberal staffer said 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 (sic) 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 sticks to his timeline

The prime minister is standing by his timeline, despite Ms Higgins saying at least three of his staff had prior knowledge of the incident.

While the messages appear to confirm her account, Mr Morrison wants the nation's top public servant to review communication records.

"If there was anything different here, I would like to know," he told reporters in Sydney on Friday.

"I want to know and that is why I have asked the secretary of my department to actually test that advice that I received."

Photo shows Scott Morrison.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has maintained he had no prior knowledge of the incident despite three of his staffers reportedly knowing about it. Source: AAP

Mr Morrison denied he had misled the public and maintains he is horrified by the allegations.

"I have sought to be as open and honest as I can be about this matter," he said.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the text messages completely contradicted Mr Morrison's claim that his office wasn't informed until last week.

"It's just incomprehensible that the prime minister's office, given a reported sexual assault had occurred 50 metres from his office, wouldn't have then had a discussion about handling the issue," he told the ABC.

"It just doesn't stack up."

Greens senator Larissa Waters is not satisfied by an internal review into the text messages, and will push for a public inquiry into the alleged rape and response when parliament resumes next week.

"We need an independent review, which has public findings," she said.

If you or somebody you know is experiencing sexual abuse or family violence contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732, the Sexual Assault Support Services on 6231 1811 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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