Scott Morrison says ‘problem’ in parliament

Scott Morrison says he’s “sickened” and “upset” by explosive reports a second woman was allegedly raped by the same person allegedly involved in the Brittany Higgins scandal.

Speaking on Saturday, the Prime Minister revealed he became aware of the second alleged incident involving another female Liberal staffer through the media.

“These events truly do sicken me, as they should anyone,” Mr Morrison said.

“I don’t know who she is, nor do we need to know who she is. That is a very distressing event.”

Mr Morrison said there was “significant work” to be done about the culture at Parliament House.

“We have a problem in the parliament and the workplace culture that exists there,” he said.

“This has been a challenging issue for many, many years.

“I think we would be naive to think it’s not a challenge that other workplaces face all around the country.

“But I agree the parliament should be setting the standard.”

Ms Higgins, who was aged 24 at the time, claims she was raped by a colleague in a minister’s office in March 2019 and was later called to an employment meeting in the room where she alleges it occurred.

Her boss, then-Defence Industry Minister Linda Reynolds, spoke with Ms Higgins about the alleged incident but did not report it to the Prime Minister, who says he retains full confidence in Senator Reynolds.

The woman at the centre of the second alleged incident told The Australian that it would not have occurred if the government had “properly dealt” with Ms Higgins case in 2019.

But Mr Morrison said the government cannot “force” someone to have a matter investigated by police.

“At all times the ministers who had knowledge of the incident that took place at Parliament House … thought to have the matter taken up by the police and investigated by the police,” Mr Morrison said.

“They very much welcome the fact that is now occurring.”

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Ms Higgins on Friday announced she had re-engaged with Australian Federal Police and will proceed with a formal complaint regarding the crime committed against her.

“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,” she said in a statement.

“I am determined to drive significant reform in the way the Australian parliament handles issues of this nature and treats ministerial and parliamentary staff more generally.

“I was failed repeatedly, but I now have my voice, and I am determined to use to ensure that this is never allowed to happen to another member of staff again.”

The Morrison government’s handling of the alleged incident has been criticised this week as more details have emerged.

Explosive text messages on Thursday confirmed a staffer told Ms Higgins in April 2019 – two weeks after the event – that he had spoken to the Prime Minister’s office.

However, the prime minister told the parliament on Tuesday that his office first found out about the allegations on February 12, and that he was told three days later when Ms Higgins went public.

He on Friday said he had tasked the head of his department to investigate the advice and the timeline of events.

An independent review into the workplaces of the parliament and its staff is also underway.

Mr Morrison said the incident was not only a Liberal problem but an issue that “all parties” have had to deal with.

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