Australia PM apologises to staffer who alleges she was raped in parliament


Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison apologised to a woman who alleged she was raped in the country's Parliament by an unnamed colleague, and promised a thorough investigation into the government's workplace culture.

"That should not have happened, and I do apologize", Morrison told reporters.

The matter is now under a renewed police investigation. "So, I hope Brittany's call is a wake-up for all of us from that point of view".

But Mr Morrison also drew criticism for saying he understood the allegations better after considering them as a father of two girls.

It didn't feel like it was anything about me, ' Ms Higgins told

She said she was violated in the office of Defence Minister Linda Reynolds in the early hours of March 23, 2019, days before Morrison called the elections on April 10.

The prime minister said there were a number of things that could be done to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future, but the government must continue to address the environment of Parliament House.

After she disclosed the alleged assault, she was brought into a meeting about the incident and asked to sit inside the very same ministerial office where she says she was assaulted.

"I find it inconceivable that that wasn't well known to at least key members of the Prime Minister's staff", he told ABC News Breakfast.

She said the man left immediately afterwards, and she wasn't offered assistance by security guards on her way out of parliament.

After arriving at Reynolds's office, Higgins, who was donning a cocktail dress, remembered being exhausted and lying down.

"It felt like I immediately became sort of like a political wasn't a staffing problem, it wasn't a HR problem, wasn't a human problem".

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Higgins, who was Reynolds' media adviser, said she decided not to pursue a police complaint at the time because she felt pressure that doing so would affect her employment.

She said the meeting with the minister was also held in the room where the alleged attack took place.

Tame responded to Higgins' comment in her Instagram post, saying, "To have been referenced as inspiration for Brittany is a positive reinforcement of the power of solidarity".

The Liberal party has been dogged by allegations of improper behavior towards women. She said she was then asked to attend a meeting in the office where she says she was assaulted.

He said such an event "should not have happened", saying it would spark a review of the complaints procedure in parliament.

Mr Morrison said he has tasked Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet official Stephanie Foster with reviewing the process in dealing with workplace complaints, while a backbench lawmaker will investigate workplace culture.

"I want to make sure that any young woman working in this place is as safe as possible", he said.

Morrison said he first heard of Higgins' allegation on Monday and his office only learned about it on Friday last week. Today, our PM, Scott Morrison, is being criticised for his tone-deaf response.

"It should not take a man having a daughter for him to treat women who've been assaulted with empathy and respect", wrote author Jamila Rizvi on Twitter.

Ms Higgins' case has refocused public scrutiny on the treatment of women in Australian politics. It has previously been accused of covering up sexual misconduct.

Labor MP Peta Murphy wants an independent body established within parliament to deal with complaints, describing workplace cultures in the building as a systemic and cultural problem.

But critics also point to a perceived lack of action when allegations of intimidation and misogyny were levelled against two government ministers late previous year, saying sexism persists.