'Cover up': Today show host's fiery confrontation over 'rape'

Olivia Lambert
·News Editor
·4-min read

Today host Karl Stefanovic has had a fiery on-air clash with Nationals Senator Matt Canavan following explosive allegations a 24-year-old staffer was raped at Parliament House.

Brittany Higgins, a former staffer for Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, alleged she had been sexually assaulted in her boss's office in March, 2019.

Since the allegations emerged, news.com.au reported CCTV from the night of the incident showed security guards unlocking the office door for the alleged perpetrator.

It also emerged the office where the incident allegedly took place was cleaned in the following days.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he only became aware of the rape allegations on Monday morning, despite the alleged incident taking place two years ago.

Stefanovic grilled Nationals Senator Matt Canavan on Wednesday morning, asking why it took so long for the PM to find out.

He then asked whether the Mr Morrison's claims stacked up, with The Australian reporting on Wednesday there was a secret inquiry going on at Parliament.

Karl Stefanovic and Matt Canavan during an interview on the Today Show.
Karl Stefanovic and Matt Canavan had a fiery on-air clash. Source: Today Show

"I didn't know about that," Senator Canavan said.

"Look, I can completely understand here that incidents like this, well, they should be handled discreetly, so they're not things that are broadcast widely and nor should they be.

"Now, the Prime Minister has expressed that he thinks in hindsight he should have been informed. But these are very difficult judgement calls because there's always a balance between an investigation occurring, but also protecting the privacy of the victim involved."

Linda Reynolds' position untenable, says Stefanovic

Stefanovic said the allegations of a rape in Parliament House and a "cover-up" made him "sick to his stomach".

"I mean, the security guards, they've covered up evidence," he claimed.

"There was a deep clean of the room that went on. I mean, Linda Reynolds, I can't fathom how her position is tenable. It's untenable."

Brittany Higgins speaks to The Project.
Brittany Higgins revealed she was allegedly raped in Parliament House. Source: The Project

Senator Canavan shot back that there needed to be a proper investigation handled by authorities, including police and others in the HR environment.

"I don't believe there's any evidence that Minister Reynolds did not seek to follow this matter up," he said in defence of the senior government official.

"Ms Higgins obviously does not think she was provided the support that she deserved, and that's regrettable and the Minister has apologised.

"Perhaps we can learn from that.

"I'm not here to cast stones. These circumstances ... they are very difficult, I'm sure, to handle.

"I don't think that Minister Reynolds acted in any way but good faith in these circumstances."

Stefanovic hit back expressing his disgust that authorities may not have been told of the alleged rape".

"But in parliament, I'm sorry, but Linda Reynolds, if a woman is saying that she was raped inside her parliamentary office, it is beyond belief that authorities weren't told."

"Hang on, hang on," Senator Canavan interrupted.

"I don't know all the details and perhaps probably you don't either. I believe that the police were – there was an investigation.

"What we do know, is that my understanding is, that Minister Reynolds did encourage her to take the matter up with police.

"It would have been inappropriate for Minister Reynolds to start broadcasting this matter more widely without the permission of the victim."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison apologises to Brittany Higgins.
Scott Morrison denounced the alleged incident during a press conference on Tuesday. Source: SBS News

Stefanovic said there had to be a level of transparency

On Tuesday, Mr Morrison said the alleged rape of Ms Higgins should serve as a "wake-up" call to ensure working environments are safe for all women as he apologised to her.

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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