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(AUSTRALIA) Parliament Senate Report: After days of sustained pressure over how she handled the alleged rape of one of her staff, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds wiped away tears and was unable to answer questions over the allegations in 2019 #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – Feb.18: It came as the Prime Minister was forced to deliver another apology to Brittany Higgins, the staffer who alleges she was raped by a colleague in Parliament House after a night out in 2019:

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds brought to tears when questioned about Brittany Higgins rape allegations

2m 52s

Linda Reynolds wipes her eye under her glasses with a tissue while sitting in the Senate chamber
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds apologised to Brittany Higgins during Question Time on Thursday.(AAP: Mike Tsikas)

On Monday night, an extended interview with Ms Higgins was broadcast on Channel Ten’s The Project.

She went through the details of the alleged rape in Ms Reynolds’s office and how she was taken into a meeting a few days later in the same room.

Ms Higgins also said she was forced to choose between her job and reporting the incident to police, and that she felt unsupported by her then-boss Ms Reynolds and one of the other senior staff members in the weeks and months after.

On Thursday, Ms Reynolds delivered another apology for how she handled the situation, saying that she thought she was doing her best for Ms Higgins at the time.

Here’s deatils of the allegation: ‘Brittany Higgins says she only found out details of her alleged rape in Parliament House after going public’

Posted Yesterday at 7:01am, updated Yesterday at 2:07pm

A woman stands in front of Parliament House smiling
Brittany Higgins resigned from her job earlier this month.(Supplied)

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins says she was only made aware about some of the details of the night she was allegedly raped in Parliament House after going public with her story.

Ms Higgins alleges a colleague raped her in the office of then-defence industry minister Linda Reynolds after a night out in 2019.

In a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, she accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison of “victim blaming” and said the “government has questions to answer for their own conduct”.

“I have only been made aware of key elements of my own sexual assault as a result of coming forward publicly with my story,” she said.

“I didn’t know that security guards let me into Minister Reynolds suite. I didn’t know that a security guard came into the office multiple times seeing me in a state of undress.

“I didn’t know that they debated calling an ambulance at the time of the incident.”

She said one of the Prime Minister’s staff, and a person working in another office, had refused to provide CCTV footage of the night.

“And continually made me feel as if my ongoing employment would be jeopardised if I proceeded any further with the matter,” she said.

The Prime Minister said he has asked the head of his department to check if a member of his staff contacted Ms Higgins last year.

A woman sits in a courtyard
Ms Higgins issued a new statement on Wednesday afternoon accusing Mr Morrison of “victim blaming”.(Supplied)

On Tuesday, Mr Morrison said his office was first advised of the allegations made by Ms Higgins at the end of last week, and there was no evidence anyone spoke to her before then.

“In relation to my [staff member], there is nothing that has been put in front of me, nothing, including phone records or anything else that suggests that that indeed was the case,” he said.

Ms Higgins told Channel 10’s The Project that a person in Mr Morrison’s office reached out to “check in” on her last year, around the time Four Corners broadcast its story on sexism and inappropriate behaviour by the Attorney-General.

On Wednesday, Labor asked the Prime Minister whether he accepted Ms Higgins’s statement.

“I refer to the answer that I gave on this matter yesterday, and the advice that I have is that that was the first time that I indicated yesterday that my office became aware of those issues, and I have engaged with the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to verify that advice,” he replied.

The ABC has been told the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has been asked to look at the work phone records of that particular staff member.

A close up of a man's face looking concerned
Scott Morrison has announced a series of reviews and initiatives in the wake of Ms Higgins’ allegations.(ABC News: Tamara Penniket)

The Prime Minister has also announced an independent review — the third sparked by Ms Higgins’s claims — “at arm’s length of government” will be conducted into the workplaces of parliamentarians and their staff.

In a letter to Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, who called for an independent complaints body to be established for political staffers, Mr Morrison said he hoped all sides of politics would be involved in developing the review.

“In particular, I have asked that this process considers the adequacy, effectiveness, independence and awareness of current supports that are available to parliamentarians and their staff,” he said.

“It is important that staff who work with us are listened to in this process.”

On Tuesday, Mr Morrison announced two new initiatives in the wake of the allegations.

The first will see West Australian MP Celia Hammond work with Coalition MPs to consider new standards. The second, overseen by senior bureaucrat at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Stephanie Foster, will provide advice to Mr Morrison on how to establish an external complaints handling process.

Play Video. Duration: 1 minute 29 seconds
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash says she did not know the details about Brittany Higgins’ alleged rape

Ms Higgins was working for Employment Minister Michaelia Cash until she resigned earlier this month.

On Wednesday, Senator Cash said she only became aware of the full nature of Ms Higgin’s allegations last week.

“I only recently became aware, in fact in relation to the alleged rape, it was when a journalist contacted my office for comment,” she told Question Time.

“On Friday the fifth of February, Brittany and I spoke and she disclosed details of what had occurred.

“I told her I wanted her to stay in her role and I would do anything to assist her … I offered to go directly to the AFP (Australian Federal Police) with her, so she could provide them with a statement.

“She advised me she did not want to pursue it.”

Senator Cash said she also offered to go with Ms Higgins to tell the Prime Minister, but she said “no” and that she wanted to maintain her privacy.

#AceNewsDesk report …………Published: Feb.18: 2021:

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