Brittany Higgins’ alleged attacker accused of raping second woman

Another woman has come forward to claim she was raped by the man accused of sexually assaulting Brittany Higgins in Parliament House in 2019.

The Weekend Australian exclusively reports the woman, also a former Liberal party staffer, came forward in solidarity with Ms Higgins.

“If this had been properly dealt with by the government in 2019 this would not have happened to me,’’ she told the newspaper, on the condition of anonymity.

“I am telling my story because I want to support Brittany (Higgins) and I want to help shine a light on this awful culture.”

News.com.au broke the story about the then-24-year-old’s alleged rape on Monday, and in the days since, an investigation into workplace culture at Parliament House has been established. Multiple ministers — including Prime Minister Scott Morrison — have said they’re “shattered” by the scandal.

Ms Higgins last night revealed she was reopening the criminal investigation into her alleged rape.

In a statement, Ms Higgins said she has re-engaged with the 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”.

“By publicly coming forward with my experience in Parliament House, I’ve sought to achieve two things,” she said.

“Firstly, I want a comprehensive police investigation into what happened to me on 22/23 March 2019 and for my perpetrator to face the full force of the law.

“The Australian Federal Police have made assurances to me that they will handle this matter thoroughly and transparently. I would also ask that they handle it in a timely manner as to date, I have waited a long time for justice.”

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Ms Higgins said the second thing she is “determined” to achieve is “to drive significant reform in the way the Australian Parliament handles issues of this nature and treats ministerial and parliamentary staff more generally”.

“I expect a truly independent investigation into how my matter was handled inside the government including offices where I worked, and other offices and parties that had knowledge of my circumstances,” she said.

“I believe that getting to the bottom of what happened to me and how the system failed me is critical to creating a new framework for political staff that ensures genuine cultural change and restores the trust of staff.”

She also called for “a significant review into the conditions under which ministerial and parliamentary staff are employed and how we can do better.”

Ms Higgins continued: “Political advisers have very few protections, resources and confidential reporting mechanisms to address any workplace issues. They are not public servants and work in an extremely high-pressure environment. Too often, a toxic workplace culture can emerge that enables inappropriate conduct and this is exacerbated by the disparity in the power dynamics.

“How ministerial and parliamentary staff are treated is a bipartisan issue that impacts staff from across the political spectrum and must be treated as such.”

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While the Prime Minister has “repeatedly told the Parliament that I should be given ‘agency’ going forward”, Ms Higgins said she does not “believe that agency was provided to me over the past two years”.

“But I seize it now and have advised the Prime Minister’s Office that I expect a voice in framing the scope and terms of reference for a new and significant review into the conditions for all ministerial and parliamentary staff,” she added.

“It is important that the reform is real and drives change beyond dealing with just what happened to me, and how the system let me down.

“From the outset, I have driven by my desire to ensure that no other person would have to go through the trauma that I experienced during my time in Parliament House.

“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.

“This has been a very difficult and trying week for me, my partner and my family. I would ask please that my privacy is respected as I now deal with the processes I have outlined in this statement. I do not intend to make any further public comment at this time.”

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Ms Higgins revealed this week she was sexually assaulted in Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’s office in March 2019 and felt forced to choose between her job and taking the matter to police.

After a night of drinking with colleagues, Ms Higgins alleges she was assaulted in her own office by another Liberal staffer who she says was regarded as a “rising star” in the party.

The alleged sexual assault occurred in the early hours of March 23, 2019, just weeks before Scott Morrison called the election on April 10, 2019.

Only months into her “dream job” of working at parliament, Ms Higgins said the horror night quickly emerged as a crisis to be managed by her successive chiefs of staff, cabinet ministers and even staff in the PM’s office.

She also revealed that she was brought to a formal employment meeting about the incident in the room where she was allegedly raped — a decision the Morrison Government has now accepted was an error by the then Defence Industry Minister, Senator Reynolds.

An emotional Senator Reynolds broke down in tears yesterday and was left unable to answer a question after offering an unreserved apology to Ms Higgins in Parliament, where she indicated she was “deeply, deeply sorry”.

The Prime Minister said this week that there was never a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in his office but questions remain over why he was never told, a decision he has made clear he did not agree with.

The list of people who knew of the controversy now includes the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President of the Senate, security officials, Department of Parliamentary Services bureaucrats and Senator Reynolds’s chief of staff who now works in the Prime Minister’s office.

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Mr Morrison said his chief of staff John Kunkel knew of an “incident” two years ago but did not learn it was an alleged rape until news.com.au contacted the office last week.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash says she was told of an “incident” two years ago after the issue threatened to come up in Senate estimates but never knew until Ms Higgins quit her job that it involved an alleged sexual assault.

On Wednesday, news.com.au published voicemail recordings of Senator Cash urging Ms Higgins to “sleep tight” and assuring her the office had the fallout “under control”. The message was sent in October, 2019.

Mr Morrison offered Ms Higgins a personal apology on Tuesday morning and announced an investigation into the culture at Parliament House. Ms Higgins told news.com.au it was a “welcomed first-step, though it is long overdue”.

Ms Higgins said she was saddened she needed to expose herself to full public glare to secure change, adding “it should not have taken my story, or the story of other victim-survivors to air on national television for the Prime Minister — or any Member of Parliament — to take action on workplace sexual harassment, assault or bullying”.



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