News Brittany Higgins meets Scott Morrison, says he agreed system let her down
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Brittany Higgins meets Scott Morrison, says he agreed system let her down

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Scott Morrison has apologised for the way Brittany Higgins's allegations were handled. Photo: ABC
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Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins says she had a “robust” discussion with the Prime Minister at a meeting on Friday afternoon.

Ms Higgins said the conversation was “very difficult on a personal effort” and that Scott Morrison had agreed the system had let her down.

“It was an honest and frank discussion. It’s important that we had it,” she said.

“The Prime Minister acknowledged the system had let me down.”

Ms Higgins said the pair also talked about reforming the legislation that staffers were hired under, known as the Members of Parliament (Staff) or MoPS act.

The act gives MPs the right to sack staffers on the spot if they lose trust or confidence in them, a rule she said created a power imbalance and did not protect employees who come forward with complaints.

“We had a discussion about what needs to happen in terms of the MoPS Act, where there needs to be better safeguards,” she said.

The former staffer came forward with allegations two months ago that she had been raped by a former colleague in March 2019.

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins says she had a “robust” discussion with Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a meeting this afternoon.

Ms Higgins, who alleges she was raped by a colleague in a minister’s office two years ago, said the conversation was “very difficult on a personal level” and that Mr Morrison had ” acknowledged the system had let me down”.

“It was an honest and frank discussion. It’s important that we had it,” she said.

Ms Higgins said the pair also talked about reforming the legislation that staffers are hired under, known as the Members of Parliament (Staff) or MoPS Act.

The Act gives MPs the right to sack staffers on the spot if they lose trust or confidence in them, a rule Ms Higgins said created a power imbalance and did not protect employees who come forward with complaints.

“We had a discussion about what needs to happen in terms of the MoPS Act, where there needs to be better safeguards,” the former staffer said.

“We had a robust discussion about the need for an independent authority [for] human resources.

“It was robust, but ultimately, in the end, I think there was a consensus that reform needs to happen.

“I think that’s where we need to be, that’s a starting point and that is encouraging.”

PM: ‘I acknowledged her courage’

In a statement, Mr Morrison said he was pleased to be able to meet with Ms Higgins “and listen to her views on how we can make parliamentary workplaces safe and more respectful”.

“I look forward to her participating in the ongoing discussions on this matter through the Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces,” Mr Morrison said.

“Ms Higgins’ views and experience will be invaluable to the work of (Sex Discrimination) Commissioner Kate Jenkins.

“I acknowledged her courage in coming forward and assisting in this work.”

A number of reviews were called in the wake of Ms Higgins’ allegations, including one by Commissioner Jenkins into the culture towards women in Parliament House, and how it could be improved.

Ms Higgins has made it clear that she thinks an independent body should be set up to handle staffers’ complaints.

At the moment the Department of Finance is responsible for investigating any claims brought by parliamentary staffers, but even if a complaint is found to be true, it has no authority to sanction a parliamentarian or their staff.

“I am committed to achieving an independent process to deal with these difficult issues,” Mr Morrison said.

‘Progress moves slowly’

Ms Higgins said she was hopeful the meeting would lead to changes to the law and that Mr Morrison would “do the right thing by the women” at Parliament House.

“Progress moves slowly. I am hopeful that it’s going to happen. I guess time will tell.”

When asked what she thought Mr Morrison had taken away from their meeting, she replied that she thought he better understood how she was made to feel in the days after she told her then-boss Linda Reynolds that she had allegedly been assaulted.

“I think he fundamentally seemed to understand what had happened to me.”

-ABC