Gov must ‘come clean’ over rape allegations

The government must say “what they knew and when they knew it” about the alleged rape of parliament staffer Brittany Higgins, Bill Shorten says.

The Morrison government needs to “come clean” about what they knew about Brittany Higgin’s alleged rape at Parliament House, former Labor leader Bill Shorten has said.

The calls come after a second woman broke her silence, alleging to The Australian she was sexually assaulted at her home last year by the same former Liberal party staffer referenced in Ms Higgins’s allegation.

The woman said she wanted to support Ms Higgins, who this week alleged she was raped by a colleague in a minister’s office in March 2019.

“If this had been properly dealt with by the government in 2019 this would not have happened to me,’’ the second woman told The Australian, on the condition of anonymity.

Mr Shorten, now Labor’s government services spokesman, said the government must acknowledge something has gone “catastrophically wrong”.

“The government needs to come clean about what they knew and when did they know it,” he said.

“This is about making sure that not just parliament, but all workplaces are safe for women.

“This has been a shocking ordeal for Brittany.”

Earlier on Saturday, federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese said claims a second woman had allegedly been raped by the same person as Ms Higgins were “deeply distressing”.

“It was a very detailed account given,” Mr Albanese said.

“My heart goes out to the person concerned.

“Sexual assault is a scourge on our society.”

He commended Ms Higgins for her bravery in going public with her claims this week but said she “deserves answers”.

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.”

The Morrison government’s handling of the situation was criticised this week after it was revealed Ms Higgins was called to an employment meeting shortly after the alleged assault in the room where she claims it occurred.

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, Scott Morrison told the parliament on Tuesday his office first found out about the allegations on February 12, and he was only told three days later when Ms Higgins went public.

Mr Morrison 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.

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, who was also aware of the event that allegedly occurred in her office barely a month out from the 2019 federal election, did not tell the prime minister.

Senator Reynolds this week apologised in the parliament to Ms Higgins for not making her feel more supported.

Mr Albanese and independent Senator Jacqui Lambie have called for Senator Reynolds to resign over the handling of the incident.

“The reported sexual assault was seen as a political problem as opposed to a crime against Ms Higgins that needed to be dealt with,” Mr Albanese said.

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