PM responds to staffer rape allegations

·2-min read

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has publicly responded to sexual assault allegations raised by a Liberal staffer, saying the woman should be listened to and respected.

Brittany Higgins was 24 years old when she was allegedly raped by a colleague inside Parliament House in March 2019.

Her boss, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, summoned her to a formal employment meeting about the incident in the same room the alleged rape occurred.

Senator Reynolds says she did not know the alleged incident happened in her office at the time of the meeting.

"Of course I'm aware of today's reports, and I'm extremely concerned about the wellbeing of my former staff member. Women should be safe," she told parliament on Monday.

Questions have now been raised about whether Senator Reynolds should apologise for her handling of the allegations.

Health Minister Greg Hunt declined to answer whether Senator Reynolds should apologise, saying the matter was sensitive and he did not have all of the details.

"And given the potentially criminal nature of this issue, it's not appropriate for me to be commenting," he told reporters in Canberra.

Labor is calling on Senator Reynolds to publicly explain the circumstances around her handling of the rape allegations.

Labor frontbencher Kristina Keneally said the minister needed to explain whether the allegations had been properly investigated, and whether there were security issues about staff accessing her office out of hours.

"There are questions about whether or not this young woman was pressured to choose between her job and reporting the matter to police," Senator Keneally said.

"I don't care what side of politics you are on, there is no place for that kind of assault and attack in a workplace or in this parliament."

Mr Morrison was asked about his government's response to the alleged rape during Question Time.

"My government takes all such matters and all matters of workplace safety very, very seriously," he said.

"Everyone should feel safe in their workplace, wherever that is. Reports today are deeply distressing. This matter is under consideration by police."

Mr Morrison said at all times, guidance was sought from Ms Higgins about how she wishes to proceed with the allegations.

"This important best practice principle of empowering Ms Higgins is something the government always sought to follow in relation to this matter," he said.

"The government has aimed to provide Ms Higgins with her agency, to provide support to make decisions in her interests and to respect her privacy.

"This offer of support and assistance continues. It is important that Ms Higgins' views are listened to and respected."