The ex-Liberal staffer claims a police officer in 2019 said she was ‘getting pushback’ after ‘reaching out to Parliament House’.
Brittany Higgins says police gave her the impression there had been stonewalling from parliamentary officials about handing over relevant material.
The department which oversees Parliament House has confirmed incident reports after the alleged sexual assault of former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins in 2019 were not handed to police until two weeks after the incident.
We have been told the security incident report from the Department of Parliamentary Services was withheld initially from the Australian federal police, despite multiple requests, and was only provided after the police escalated inquiries.
Higgins has alleged she was assaulted in Linda Reynolds’ ministerial office on the night of 22 March by a more senior colleague. The former staffer told Guardian Australia she gave an informal statement to police at Parliament House on 27 March after disclosing her recollections to Reynolds’ then-chief of staff the previous day.
Those discussions prompted the termination of the alleged perpetrator’s employment. It has been revealed he had “at least two detailed references” when he later went for a job with a Sydney-based public relations and registered lobbyist firm in the months after the attack.
Higgins said when she spoke to police at Parliament House on 27 March they already seemed to have information about events on the night of the alleged assault. “They were filling in blanks for me,” she said, which made it “a strange” but supportive conversation at a traumatic time.
But she said when her complaint went to the sexual assault and child abuse team in Belconnen, police there conveyed the impression there was stonewalling from parliamentary officials about handing over relevant material.
Higgins said the police officer she dealt with in Belconnen told her the unit was already in the process of acquiring footage from venues she attended on the night of the alleged assault. But she said police were “getting pushback” after “reaching out to Parliament House”. “They didn’t seem surprised by that,” Higgins said.
Asked when the relevant incident reports were provided to police, the Department of Parliamentary Services initially said “in April 2019”.
When asked to supply the precise date, a DPS spokesperson said: “All relevant reports of the incident were provided to the AFP at their request on 7 April 2019.”
In a separate statement, the DPS said it informed the Senate president, Scott Ryan, in late March that there had been an incident in Reynolds’ office. The speaker, Tony Smith, was told on 8 April.
Ryan and Smith were informed by DPS on 8 April that the AFP had made a request to view the CCTV footage. The security vision was viewed at Parliament House on 16 April.
Higgins withdrew her police complaint on 13 April. She has said she felt at the time that pursuing the complaint would put her staffing career in jeopardy.
After anonymous complaints were handed to Ryan and Smith a year after the incident suggesting improper conduct by parliamentary officials, correspondence outlining the claims was sent initially to the AFP. Some of the allegations went to a cleanup of Reynolds’ suite on 23 March and whether a potential crime scene had been tampered with.
After police concluded there had been no disclosures of a potential sexual assault to either parliamentary security or DPS before the cleaning was authorised, the finding was the actions taken “were not in response to a suspected crime”.
A second investigation was then carried out by former federal security inspector general Vivienne Thom. According to the DPS statement, the conclusion of this inquiry was the evidence did not substantiate claims that incident reports had been amended, or that a senior DPS official instructed the building security division to have the suite cleaned.
More details have also emerged about the post-politics employment of the alleged perpetrator.
Higgins said she had no knowledge of whether her former colleague resigned or was dismissed on 26 March after a conversation with the chief of staff about the events of the evening of 22 March.
She said that he went “quietly”. As he packed up his desk “heads were down in the office”. Higgins said that was a reflection of “staffer culture”.
“No one asked questions,” she said. No one disclosed the terms of the termination. “They just said he was gone.”
We have learned that he was armed with “at least two detailed references” when he went for a job with a Sydney-based public relations and registered lobbyist firm. He appears to have secured that job in May 2019 two months after the alleged rape.
“We have a very clear company policy when hiring any individual – that at least two detailed references are always required before a contract is issued,” a spokeswoman for the firm said. “This policy was followed on this occasion.”
Reynolds has denied she wrote a reference for her ex-staffer and says she has had no further contact with him following his termination. But she would not say on Thursday whether senior staff in her office provided any references.
According to a now deactivated Twitter profile, the man had been in federal politics since 2013 in a range of roles. It is not clear whether the references the man had were work references or from employers who had any knowledge of the alleged rape.
The federal police on Thursday said in a statement: “A senior member of the Australian Federal Police met with minister Linda Reynolds and her chief of staff on 4 April 2019 in relation to allegations of sexual assault in the minister’s office.”
“The AFP has engaged with the Department of Parliamentary Services and presiding officers a number of times,” the force said. “The matter is an open investigation and further commentary could be prejudicial.”
So , as you can see , many members of the Govt WERE told and it is inconceivable that Morrison was not. His lies are exposed and now we just watch as he digs himself and his government deeper into a hole.
And a LOT of questions remain unanswered ,like "Why such a huge coverup for so long if it was just a staffer that allegedly raped Ms Higgins? Surely this could have been dealt with legally and "safely" after the 2019 election? It just doesn't add up , unless it was actually someone much more senior in the Liberal party , like an MP , or a Pentecostal.