‘Sickened’ Morrison talks about long-time ‘issue’ as second woman alleges rape

Brooke Rolfe
·News Reporter
·5-min read

A second woman has come forward with allegations she was raped by the same male accused of assaulting Brittany Higgins inside Parliament House in March 2019.

The woman, who spoke with The Australian on a condition of anonymity, alleged she was sexually assaulted late last year by the same former government advisor accused of abusing former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins.

The alleged victim, who was also a former Liberal staffer, told the publication she would not have suffered through the alleged ordeal if Ms Higgins' had have been provided adequate support.

“If this had been properly dealt with by the government in 2019 this would not have happened to me,’’ she said.

Ms Higgins went public this week with allegations she was raped in 2019, and on Friday announced she would be re-engaging with police with the hope her alleged abuser would face the full force of the law.

"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.

Brittany Higgins (pictured) went public this week with allegations she was raped in 2019. Source: Nine
Brittany Higgins (pictured) went public this week with allegations she was raped in 2019. Source: Nine

"The Australian Federal Police have made assurances to me that they will handle this matter thoroughly and transparently."

Addressing the Ms Higgins' and the new claims Saturday morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the alleged assaults as "sickening".

Ms Higgins, who has since resigned from her job as a Liberal staff member, has 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," she said.

"Too often, a toxic workplace culture can emerge that enables inappropriate conduct and this is exacerbated by the disparity in the power dynamics."

She referred to Prime Minister Scott Morrison's own words that she should be given "agency" going forward, saying, "I don't believe that agency was provided to me over the past two years but I seize it now".

A second woman has claimed she was raped by the same former government advisor. (Brittany Higgins pictured). Source: Nine
A second woman has claimed she was raped by the same former government advisor. (Brittany Higgins pictured). Source: Nine

Ms Higgins said she expected to have a voice in framing the scope and terms of reference for a review into conditions for ministerial and parliamentary staff.

From the outset of going public about her alleged sexual assault in the office of then-defence industry minister Linda Reynolds, she had done so with a higher aim.

"I was failed repeatedly, but I now have my voice, and I am determined to use to ensure that this is never allowed to happen to another member of staff again."

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

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has come under fire for his recollection of when he was informed of Ms Higgins' alleged rape. Source: AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has come under fire for his recollection of when his office was informed of Ms Higgins' alleged rape. Source: AAP

In the message, the Liberal staffer said he had spoken directly with a member of Mr Morrison's staff.

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

Morrison says 'these events' have been ongoing for years

On Saturday, Morrison addressed the new rape allegation and agreed an investigation was required into what he said was a historic issue within parliament.

"This has been a challenging issue for many, many years. And I think we would be naive to think it's not a challenge that other workplaces face all around the country, but I agree the parliament should be setting the standard," he told said.

He claimed he had witness change during his time in parliament such as the infamous "bonk ban" which banned ministers from having sex with their staffers.

"That never existed before. And that, I think, set a very strong standard and sent a very strong signal," he said.

"These events truly do sicken me. As they should anyone.

"Frankly there have been issues in all of these areas before. Those who are there now will be doing everything we can to make sure this workplace are safe as possible."

Opposition leader slams Morrisons claims as 'not credible'

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

Speaking with ABC News Saturday, Mr Albanese slammed the prime minister and called for an independent review to be conducted.

"The idea that the Prime Minister's Office found out about this last week is simply not credible. The Prime Minister needs to say exactly what the real timeline is," he said, casting further doubt over Mr Morrison's recollection of when he found out about the incident.

- Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the second alleged rape also allegedly occurred inside Parliament House.

With AAP

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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