Tens of thousands of people marched across Australia last week to protest the sexual abuse and harassment of women, including the former adviser who says she was raped in March 2019 in Parliament House. Brittany Higgins—the first of five women to make such a claim, per the Washington Post—spoke at a protest at that very building in Canberra, where some questioned Prime Minister Scott Morrison's assertion that he was unaware of her complaint until she went public last month, per the Guardian. But if Morrison thought the fever had hit its pitch, he was very, very wrong. Channel 10 reported Monday on a Facebook Messenger group in which male staffers with the ruling Liberal-National Coalition shared photos and videos of sex acts inside Parliament House, per the Guardian. One video allegedly shows a senior aide, since fired, masturbating on the desk of a female lawmaker.
A former government staffer who leaked the files described a "culture of men thinking that they can do whatever they want," said staffers and MPs used a prayer room for sex, and claimed sex workers had even been brought in "for the pleasure of coalition MPs," per the BBC and Guardian. The fired staffer was also a member of the coalition, which includes Morrison's Liberal Party. "We must get this house in order," the "shocked" PM said during a Tuesday press conference that found him fighting back tears, per the Post. He acknowledged that "many Australians, especially women, believe that I have not heard them," per Reuters. Onlookers are upset with his response to Higgins, the protests, and to wider accusations of sexism in Parliament. Per the Canberra Times, the coalition government rejected a 2020 proposal that would've supplied staffers with better sexual-harassment protections. (Read more Australia stories.)