Brittany Higgins’ rape allegation has launched five inquiries. Here’s the breakdown | Australia news

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In light of Brittany Higgins’ allegation she was raped by a former staffer in 2019, prime minister Scott Morrison has responded by announcing a number of inquiries.

These are due to cover a range of issues, from improving workplace culture at Parliament House, to the information sharing processes in the prime minister’s office.

Here is a list of all the inquiries announced so far and what they will look into:

Workplace culture

The first inquiry was announced by the prime minister in the immediate aftermath of Higgins going public with her allegations.

Led by WA Liberal MP Celia Hammond, this inquiry will look into the workplace culture specifically within the Coalition, so both the Liberal and National parties.

In announcing it, Morrison said the investigation would aim to identify how standards, expectations and practices could be improved.

Support for staffers

In that same announcement, Morrison also said a second inquiry would be launched to improve the complaints process and support for political staffers.

Led by deputy secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Stephanie Foster, the inquiry will look to develop an external complaints-handling process.

The hopes are that such processes would allow people to make complaints without the need to navigate party politics.

Workplace culture 2

The second workplace culture inquiry is a cross-party process that will examine how to improve the working culture in Parliament House and support for staff working there.

This inquiry is different to the first in that it will be conducted independently of the government, and will cover parliamentarians across the party spectrum.

The finance minister, Simon Birmingham, who is coordinating the inquiry, said he wanted it set up by the beginning of March, although it may take some time as all parties will need to agree to the terms of reference and the choice of who will lead it.

On Monday, Birmingham said he had spoken to the sex discrimination commissioner, Kate Jenkins, about the inquiry and hoped it would focus on safety for staffers in Parliament House, in light of a fourth allegation made against the same former staffer who allegedly raped Higgins.

Who knew what in the PMO

The other inquiry announced by the prime minister will investigate who in his office knew of the initial Higgins allegation and when they knew.

That inquiry will be led by the secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Phil Gaetjens, who has been given a power to ask for phone records and any other information that might help establish a timeline.

It comes after text messages emerged that reportedly show staffers in the PMO were aware of the alleged rape in 2019, only weeks after the alleged incident occurred.

It is unclear if the report will be made public.

Police inquiry

Finally, there is the official police inquiry. Higgins is expected to make a formal complaint later this week.

The ACT police previously stated that they had spoke to a complainant in April 2019, but that the complainant had decided not to pursue the matter.

Higgins said last week that she had reopened a conversation with the Australian federal police, saying she wanted the alleged perpetrator to “face the full force of the law” and that she had “waited a long time for justice”.



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