Scott Morrison's staff 'knew about alleged rape' of Brittany Higgins

The office of former prime minister Scott Morrison was told there had been an alleged sexual assault inside Parliament House within two weeks, a jury has heard.

Brittany Higgins alleges she was raped by her former colleague on a couch inside then defence industry minister Linda Reynolds' office.

Former Liberal Party staffer Bruce Lehrmann has pleaded not guilty to sexual intercourse without consent.

Ms Higgins' ex-boyfriend Ben Dillaway was one of the first people she disclosed her recollections of the night to.

Former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins leaves the ACT Supreme Court in Canberra on Friday.
Former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins leaves the ACT Supreme Court in Canberra on Friday. Source: AAP

Mr Dillaway, a staffer who Ms Higgins met when they both worked in former coalition minister Steven Ciobo's office, said he encouraged her to make a police complaint.

He offered to discreetly speak to a friend in the prime minister's office to help "move things along".

Mr Dillaway said he spoke to Julian Leembruggen, a senior staffer in Mr Morrison's office, about the alleged assault on April 3 after checking that Ms Higgins didn't mind him doing so.

Ms Higgins has previously told the court she feared losing her job as a staffer and was pressured not to pursue a police complaint because of the ramifications it would have for the Liberal Party at the 2019 federal election.

But her former chief of staff Fiona Brown denied that she and Senator Reynolds had been anything but supportive.

Ms Brown said the only reference Ms Higgins made to her alleged assault was when she recalled Lehrmann being on top of her while the pair were in Parliament House during the early hours of Saturday, March 23, 2019.

A senior Scott Morrison staffer was allegedly told about the alleged incident, a court has heard.
A senior Scott Morrison staffer was told about the alleged incident, a court has heard. Source: Getty

The court heard Ms Brown was concerned and told Ms Higgins she was within her rights to make a police complaint if she wanted.

In a later meeting with Senator Reynolds, Ms Brown said the senator told Ms Higgins she would be "fully supported" to make a police complaint.

"(Ms Higgins) was concerned about how this could impact her career and Senator Reynolds said there would be no impact to her career and that she had our full support," Ms Brown said.

In June 2019, after Ms Higgins had moved to a different ministerial office, she texted Ms Brown thanking her for the support and advice she had offered.

"You've been absolutely incredible and I'm so appreciative," Ms Higgins said.

Ms Brown became emotional when asked if she recalled that text.

Asked by defence lawyer Steven Whybrow if she had discouraged Ms Higgins from pursuing a police complaint, Ms Brown replied "no".

Former Liberal Party staffer Bruce Lehrmann leaves the ACT Supreme Court in Canberra, Friday, October 14, 2022. Former Liberal Party staffer Bruce Lehrmann is accused of raping a colleague Brittany Higgins at Parliament House in 2019. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Former Liberal Party staffer Bruce Lehrmann leaves the ACT Supreme Court in Canberra on Friday. Source: AAP

Lehrmann says political staffer culture was 'ruthless'

She also denied telling Ms Higgins she would no longer have a ministerial job if she did not travel to Western Australia for the federal election campaign.

Meanwhile, Lehrmann described the political staffer culture as "ruthless".

During a police interview he said he planned to leave Parliament House in 2019 after nearly six years working as a staffer in various ministerial offices.

"The culture of that place … was horrendous," he told police.

He described a former coalition minister he had worked for as "notorious for treating (their) staff poorly" and that it was a "very mentally scarring" experience.

"I had had enough. I'd worked 14 to 15 hour days (for) long enough," he said.

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