PM Responds to Alleged Rape in Australian Parliament

Adviser Brittany Higgins plans to reopen 2019 police complaint against colleague
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 16, 2021 7:11 AM CST
PM Responds to Alleged Rape in Australian Parliament
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks at a press conference to discuss sexual assault allegations against a male staffer at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.   (Mick Tsikas/AAP Image via AP)

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has apologized to a former adviser who says she was raped in a parliamentary office. In a Monday interview with The Project, Brittany Higgins said she'd been working with Defence Industry Minister Linda Reynolds for a few weeks when she went out for drinks with colleagues in March 2019. She then got in a taxi, intending to head home, but a male colleague—"a rising star" in Morrison's Liberal Party—directed the taxi to Parliament House, saying he needed to "pick something up," per the BBC and CNN. Then 24, Higgins said she fell asleep in the minister's office and "woke up mid-rape." She said she told her colleague to stop but he didn't. Higgins said she later informed Reynolds' office but felt pressured not to pursue a police complaint. She feared she'd lose her job. Police confirmed a case was opened but paused, per the Guardian.

On Tuesday, Morrison apologized to Higgins, including for a meeting with Reynolds which took place in the same room as the alleged rape. He also promised an investigation into the culture of parliament. "I hope Brittany's call is a wake-up call for all of us," he said, per the BBC. He added the male was "swiftly" fired as a result of breaching security at Parliament House on the night in question. Morrison took flak, however, for saying his wife helped him "clarify" his views by asking that he consider the case as the father of two daughters. "It should not take a man having a daughter for him to treat women who've been assaulted with empathy and respect," author Jamila Rizvi tweeted, per the BBC. Higgins added it should not have taken her story airing on national television "for the Prime Minister—or any Member of Parliament—to take action on workplace sexual harassment, assault or bullying," per CNN. (More Australia stories.)

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