Brittany Higgins will formally lodge a police report about her alleged rape this week as a third woman has come forward alleging she was sexually assaulted by the same Morrison government adviser.
Scott Morrison and Linda Reynolds are still facing questions about how the government responded to Ms Higgins’ claims – and whether some in Canberra knew more than they are saying.
Prime Minister Morrison has also again faced questions on the timeline he provided as to his knowledge of the event.
His office was asked about the allegations last Friday but the PM says they didn’t pass on the message to him until after the story was published on Monday – nearly three full days later.
Ms Higgins alleged she was raped by a colleague, inside the Parliament House office of her then-boss Senator Reynolds, after a function in 2019.
The Australian newspaper reports on Monday that a third woman claims she was assaulted when she was a campaign volunteer in 2016 and barely out of school.
The woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, supported her allegations with a statutory declaration, the newspaper states.
It’s claimed she got drunk when the alleged perpetrator bought her drinks when they went out with campaign volunteers several days before the election.
She was going to catch an Uber home but the man said his hotel was “around the corner” and he could “look after me”, The Australian reports.
The newspaper says she passed out while laying on his bed and woke up with her button-up blouse opened, her jeans pushed down and the staffer “lying on top of me” although she can’t be clear as to whether he was “conscious or sleeping”.
She fled the room and went to the hotel lobby toilet and noticed “I was bleeding”, before going home, the newspaper writes.
“I believe his actions on the night of 29 June and the morning of 30 June constitute sexual assault, because he performed or tried to perform sexual acts on me whilst I was severely intoxicated and unable to provide valid and informed consent,’’ she told The Australian.
The Australian says the young woman – who had not had sex before – did not go to police or tell friends or family.
The past week in federal politics has been consumed by Ms Higgins’ brave confessions, with revelations that numerous high-profile members of the government – including some inside Mr Morrison’s office – knew of her complaint some time ago.
Defence Minister Reynolds, Employment Minister Michaelia Cash, Senate President Scott Ryan, Speaker of the House House of Representatives Tony Smith and security guards inside Parliament are confirmed to have known of the rape allegations before the story broke publicly.
Ms Higgins also claimed some of Mr Morrison’s top-ranking staff were aware that a serious incident had occurred.
Ms Higgins chose not to make a formal police complaint at the time, but has now decided to do so.
“Today I have re-engaged with 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,” she said on Friday.
The New Daily understands that, as the police process unfolds, she could lodge a formal complaint as early as Wednesday.
That would coincidentally be the same day her former boss, Senator Reynolds, gives a high-profile speech at the National Press Club.
“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,” Ms Higgins said.
“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.”
Morrison faces questions over timeline
The PM was again questioned on Sunday about what his office knew of Ms Higgins’ allegations, and when.
@ursulaheger following up with the PM after @samanthamaiden had gone to the PMO with Brittany Higgins' allegation on the Friday but he wasn't informed by them of the situation until the Monday. Why the 48 hour delay? #auspol pic.twitter.com/udrPLwan52
— David Marler (@Qldaah) February 21, 2021
Mr Morrison repeatedly told the Parliament last week that his office only learned of Ms Higgins’ allegations when contacted by news.com.au at 2.30pm on Friday.
His office looked into the allegations and provided a lengthy written statement in response to the media inquiry on Sunday.
However, Mr Morrison maintains he personally was not told of it until the story was published at 8am on Monday, some 66 hours later.
That’s a claim that has boggled the minds of many journalists and politicos inside Parliament House in recent days.
It is also “implausible”, according to Anthony Albanese. Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull called it “inconceivable” that Mr Morrison’s office didn’t know earlier, saying it would have been “absolutely baffling”.
“That’s what happened. I expressed my view to my staff very candidly on Monday,” Mr Morrison said on Sunday, when asked about the timeline.
“You can be assured that [his staff] know exactly my views about that matter.”
Senator Reynolds will also come under the microscope this week.
She is due to provide a response to a Senate Question Time question from last week, which she was unable to answer after breaking down in tears on Thursday.
Senator Reynolds asked to answer the question on Monday instead, a highly unusual response which long-time Parliament watchers say is almost unheard of in recent history.
She will also give a high-profile televised speech to the National Press Club on Wednesday morning.
Following the speech, NPC speakers traditionally take a number of tough questions from the top journalists in the Parliamentary Press Gallery.
- For confidential help and support surrounding sexual assault, contact 1800 RESPECT online or by calling 1800 737 732