Aussie PM promises probe into alleged rape in Parliament

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison Credit Mick Tsikas AAP Image via AP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is under intense scrutiny over what he knew about an alleged rape inside Parliament House.

In 2019, female backbench lawmakers said they felt bullied to support a move to oust then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, while a former female Liberal staff member a year ago made an official complaint of improper behaviour by then immigration minister Alan Tudge.

Mr Morrison said he would happily apologise to Ms Higgins for the meeting that was held in the same place the alleged rape happened.

The Morrison government's policies on Jobkeeper, Indigenous deaths in custody, and the federal government's history of treating women disrespectfully in parliament prove how much empathy Morrison and his government lack.

Tegan George, a federal politics reporter for Channel Ten, was quick to post a video of her questioning Scott Morrison nearly immediately after his statement.

The prime minister claimed that being a husband and father was "central" to him being a human being and so he couldn't "follow the question".

She said she was offered her a lift home by the man at the end of the night, but instead he took her to Parliament House.

The woman told an online news publication and Channel 10 on Monday that she had been raped in the office of the current Defense Minister Linda Reynolds in March 2019 by unnamed colleague who also worked for Morrison's ruling Liberal party.

"I woke up mid-rape essentially", she told Network Ten. "I started crying. I told him to stop". "It felt like I immediately became a political problem", she said.

Ms Higgins said Senator Reynolds was "nice" and "apologetic", but the meeting quickly turned to whether she would report the incident to police.

"I am not happy about the fact it was not brought to my attention and I can assure you people know that", he said.

Higgins said she spoke with the police in early April 2019, but decided against making a formal complaint amid concerns about her career prospects.

Political staffer Brittany Higgins then 24 has alleged she was raped by a colleague inside Australia's Parliament House
Political staffer Brittany Higgins then 24 has alleged she was raped by a colleague inside Australia's Parliament House Credit Instagram

"There was a loop happening in my mind of this trauma that I'd just sort of come to terms with and I thought it was unfathomable that they would put me in such a place again", she said.

In particular, Senator Reynolds said she deeply regretted calling a meeting with Higgins in the place of the alleged attack.

Mr Morrison said he has written to Finance Minister Simon Birmingham to request he coordinate the cross-parliamentary cooperation.

Reynold's on Monday confirmed that she had been told of the complaint. "What would you want to happen if it were our girls?" he said.

The Prime Minister has also announced an independent review - the third sparked by Ms Higgins' claims - "at arm's length of Government" will be conducted into the workplaces of parliamentarians and their staff.

"It shouldn't have been up to the victim and the survivor to ensure that other women are safe - there should have been a process in place".

Why has Morrison drawn criticism?

Mr Morrison became visibly emotional on Tuesday as he denounced the incident and spoke about being a father of daughters, and how he would feel if they were in the position of Ms Higgins.

But he said he was taking a stronger response on Tuesday after watching her interview and speaking with his wife, who had helped to "clarify" his views.

"I don't think sitting within Department of Finance with a minister still of the government of the day is really going to provide that level of confidence", Sharkie said.

At the time, Mr Morrison was also criticised for interrupting a female minister who was responding to a question about what it's like to be a woman in parliament.

Ms Higgins, women in parliament, and the marginalised peoples of this country deserve better than a condescending PM who can not muster empathy for a single woman without his wife advising him to imagine this woman is his daughter.

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