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Brittany Higgins accuses PM of using ‘victim blaming rhetoric’ after alleged rape | Australian politics

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Former federal government staff Brittany Higgins has accused Scott Morrison of using victim blaming rhetoric, which is personally very disturbing to me and countless other sexual assault survivors.

Morrison on Wednesday insisted he and his office only learned recently about the disturbing allegations made by Higgins. She says she was attacked by a colleague on a bed in then-defense industry minister Linda Reynolds in March 2019.

The former councilor, who said she felt like pursuing a police complaint as the alleged rape would end her career, expressed anger Wednesday that she was learning only key details through media reports rather than from colleagues after the attack. claimed.

I did not know that the security guards allowed me to enter Minister Reynolds’s suite, Higgins said in a statement.

I did not know that the security guards entered the office several times before seeing me in a state of undress. I did not know that they were undertaking an internal review of how the matter was handled at the time. I did not know that they debated calling an ambulance at the time of the incident.

The constant rhetoric of blaming the victims by the Prime Minister is personally very disturbing to me and to the survival of countless others.

Higgins said: A current senior staff member of the Prime Minister and my former Chief of Staff refused to grant me access to CCTV footage from that evening and constantly made me feel like my continued employment would be jeopardized if I continued with the issue. The government has questions to answer for their behavior.

The new statement from Higgins came after questioning, when Morrison was asked about his knowledge of the alleged attack and the knowledge of his staff.

Earlier in the day, Malcolm Turnbull said it was unbelievable that Morrison did not know about the alleged attack until this week and it was inconceivable that senior staff in the prime minister’s office were unaware of the details until last week.

Labor has joined the former prime minister in declaring it unbelievable that the prime minister’s office should not be involved in the details of a potentially criminal case. ALP leader Anthony Albanese told reporters that Morrison’s account does not fit well with Higgins’ recollections of events.

One of the issues with women coming forward is the question of whether or not a key issue is believed and many women are placed in positions with which they are afraid of being mistrusted, the Labor leader said. I believe Mrs. Higgins.

Morrison told parliament on Tuesday his office had been made aware of Higgins’s alleged rape on February 12, 2021 and he had learned it in person when the first story was published by news.com.au on Monday.

Reynolds’s chief of staff at the time, Fiona Brown, had worked in Morrison’s office since the 2019 election, and certainly had prior knowledge of the alleged attack, having managed Higgins directly thereafter.

Higgins has said one of Morrison’s top political advisers, Yaron Finkelstein, was in control of him at the time the ABCs Four Corners program aired a House of Parliament culture survey in 2020. The government says there is no record of any communication.

Higgins’s confidants say the recording conversation with Finkelstein took place on the WhatsApp messaging app.

The government acknowledges that Morrisons chief of staff John Kunkel and a parliamentary adviser were involved at the time the suspected perpetrator was fired by Reynolds for a security breach after entering the ministerial office a few hours later, but said both were not were aware of the alleged sexual assault.

On Wednesday, Morrison gripped his chronology and his account of who knew what, when, in office, despite the fact that Brown clearly had prior knowledge.

He tried to explain the discrepancy by telling parliament Brown had not telegraphed events from her period working for Reynolds to her new colleagues in the Morrisons office. It is not common practice in my understanding that when staff move between offices, they discover issues of other offices, the Prime Minister said.

Given that there are conflicting accounts, Morrison said he had asked his department head to verify the data to check any contact between his ministerial office and Higgins.

The besieged Secretary of Defense, Reynolds, refused to answer questions in the Senate on the basis of the existence of an active police issue, although moments earlier in the lower room, Morrison had confirmed that Higgins had suspended her police complaint. .

In the Senate, Skills Minister Michaelia Cash, who hired Higgins after leaving Reynolds’s office after the 2019 election, told the upper house she learned of the alleged rape on Feb. 5 and offered to accompany the new police officer if she wanted to make a statement.

Cash said Higgins did not want the matter to be pursued at the time.

Turnbull, who contacted Higgins on Tuesday to offer his support, told ABC on Wednesday that, given the circumstances, it was very, very, very hard to believe that the prime minister’s office would not have been aware of the incident. as soon as it happened, and would not have been aware of the complaints Brittany was making.

I mean, if they weren’t, it was a complete system failure, Turnbull said.

I find it inconceivable that this was not known to at least key members of the Prime Minister’s staff, and if it were not, there was clearly a confusing breakdown in communications.

As well as the questions Morrison faced at home Tuesday, Reynolds was asked about how she exercised a duty of care to Higgins and to discover any help she might have given to the suspected perpetrator after his work was cut short. for a security breach.

The suspected perpetrator was hired by Reynolds at the time of the alleged attack. Reynolds unreservedly apologized to Higgins on Tuesday and said she did not recall giving any help to her former staff member. She undertook to advise the room if she could share further information.

A parliamentary inquiry has dealt with the matter in a confidential manner due to concerns raised by security guards. The Parliamentary Services Department said in a statement that the whistleblowers’ allegations had been independently investigated and found to be unfounded.

Albanese told reporters that it was a violation of the law for every member of a parliamentary committee, in terms of a confidential appearance, to make others aware of this, so that I am not unaware of those details.

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