Staffer Brittany Higgins allegedly raped in office of senior government minister Linda Reynolds inside Parliament House

Staffer Brittany Higgins allegedly raped in office of senior government minister Linda Reynolds inside Parliament House
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The issue of the toxic treatment of women inside Parliament House has re-emerged following new allegations that a federal government staffer was raped in a minister’s office.

News.com.au has reported that a man working for then-defence industry minister Linda Reynolds took a 24-year-old female media staffer into Parliament House after a Friday night drinking session in March 2019 and allegedly raped her inside the defence industry minister’s office.

Her story follows those of other women who have spoken out about the inappropriate treatment they experienced working at Parliament House.

The junior staffer, Brittany Higgins, was just four weeks into her role at the time.

Ms Higgins told the ABC the information contained in the news.com.au report was accurate.

She said she felt like she was asked to choose between making a formal complaint and keeping her job.

After a stint working for Employment Minister Michaelia Cash, Ms Higgins has now resigned from working for the Government.

A statement from a member of the Prime Minister’s Office said the reports were “deeply distressing”.

“Throughout the entire process the overriding concern for Government was to support Ms Higgins’ welfare in whatever way possible,” the statement said.

“At all times, guidance was sought from Ms Higgins as to how she wished to proceed, and to support and respect her decisions.”

Senator Linda Reynolds addressed the reports in the Senate on Monday.(ABC News: Tamara Penniket)

Days after the alleged incident a meeting was held between Senator Reynolds, Ms Higgins and a senior staffer inside the minister’s office — the scene of the alleged crime.

The Prime Minister’s Office conceded holding the meeting at this location was an “oversight”.

“Given the seriousness of the incident, consideration should have been made to the location of the meeting with Ms Higgins, and in hindsight that oversight is regretted.”

Senator Reynolds, who is now the Defence Minister, told the Senate she was “extremely concerned” for Ms Higgins’s wellbeing.

“Women should be safe and they should feel safe in the workplace at all times,” she said.

“My only priority throughout this matter was the welfare of my then-staff member and ensuring that she received the support that she needed.

“That included ensuring she was clear about the support available to her, and her right to make a formal complaint to the Australian Federal Police, should she choose to do so.”

Two women smile in ball gowns
Brittany Higgins took a job with Employment Minister Michaelia Cash after the 2019 election.(Supplied)

She added she “was at pains to ensure that my staff member felt empowered to determine how she wanted to handle the matter, and that remains the case”.

Senator Reynolds said she did not know the alleged incident had occurred in the office when she arranged the meeting, and said she would have conducted the meeting elsewhere had she known.

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PM says reports a Liberal staffer was sexually assaulted at Parliament House are ‘distressing’.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison tabled the statement from his office in Parliament and said the Government “takes all such matters, all matters of workplace safety, very very seriously”.

“Everyone should feel safe in their workplace, wherever that is.

“The reports today are deeply distressing.”

Liberal backbencher Jason Falinski tweeted in support of Ms Higgins.

“Assault of any sort, but sexual assault in particular is just unbelievable. Ms Higgins is incredible brave for speaking out and we should all respect that.”

ACT Police confirmed they had spoken to a complainant in April 2019 but the complainant chose not to make a formal complaint.

“Victims always have a say in how far a police investigation goes, can determine that a matter not proceed to prosecution, and can withdraw from the process at any time,” police said.

“It is not uncommon for an investigation to halt, not proceed to prosecution, or to be recommenced at a later time, at the request of a victim.”

Defence Minister with a solemn expression while being asked questions at a business breakfast in Perth on November 20, 2020.
The alleged incident occurred when the staffer worked for Defence Minister Linda Reynolds.(ABC News: Cathy Bryant)

Ms Higgins said she chose not to make a formal complaint because of her desire at the time to protect the reputation of the Liberal Party, and to maintain her “dream job”.

She said she was given the option to work on the May 2019 election campaign in Western Australia — Senator Reynolds’s home state — or to go home to the Gold Coast.

According to news.com.au, she said she was told she wouldn’t have a job after the election if she went to the Gold Coast.

The statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said: “The Government has aimed to provide Ms Higgins with agency, provide support to make decisions in her interests, and to respect her privacy.”

A woman stands in front of Parliament House smiling
Brittany Higgins landed her “dream job” working for a Minister, but now alleges she was raped inside Parliament House.(Supplied)



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