Third Woman Alleges Rape by Former Australian Parliament Staffer

By AAP
February 21, 2021 Updated: February 21, 2021

A third woman has come forward to allege she was sexually assaulted by the same political staffer accused of raping a colleague inside Parliament House.

The woman said she was assaulted while working as a coalition volunteer during the 2016 election campaign.

She was barely out of school at the time of the attack, which allegedly occurred after a night out drinking with the then-political staffer.

A second woman came forward over the weekend.

The allegations come as Brittany Higgins, who said she was raped inside a parliamentary office in 2019, prepares to make a statement to Australian Federal Police.

Higgins was employed by Defence Minister Linda Reynolds at the time of the alleged assault.

Australian Sen. Penny Wong
Australian Sen. Penny Wong in the Senate at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on Dec. 2, 2019. (Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)

Labor’s Senate leader Penny Wong said Senator Reynolds had questions to answer about how the complaint was handled.

“She wasn’t being treated as a human being. She wasn’t being treated as a rape survivor and she wasn’t being treated as a victim of a grave crime,” Wong told Parliament. “She was being treated as a political problem.”

Wong said Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s words rung hollow while there was no culture of accountability.

“We know that at best, Mr Morrison runs a government where the culture is don’t ask, don’t tell when it comes to serious criminal allegation,” she said. “At worst, Mr Morrison himself is part of the cover up.”

Labor, the Greens, and One Nation have accused the government of setting up whitewash inquiries in response to the allegations.

Epoch Times Photo
Senator Simon Birmingham during Senate business at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia on Dec. 7, 2020. (Sam Mooy/Getty Images)

Government Senate leader Simon Birmingham said he would welcome the input of Higgins into reforming Parliament’s culture.

“We must all live up to the highest standard that people should expect at this workplace,” he said.

The alleged rape has sparked several inquiries into workplace cultures in federal politics.

The prime minister has also endorsed an external complaints handling process for parliamentarians and their staff.

The Greens are calling on the government to set up an independent review into how Higgins’ allegations were handled.

Higgins initially chose not to pursue a police complaint, fearing her job would be on the line.

Senator Birmingham said in circumstances where somebody chose not to proceed with a police complaint, there was a balance to be struck by those who were informed of the allegations.

He said respecting the rights of individuals to make decisions needed to be weighed against the responsibility of others to pursue action.

Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon said the cultural problem was one for men—not women—to fix.

“Men have to understand that if they do these things the full force of the law will come down upon them,” he told the Seven Network.

By Daniel McCulloch and Matt Coughlan