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THE BRITTANY HIGGINS ALLEGATIONS HAVE UNEARTHED FURY AMONG WOMEN STAFFERS AND POLITICIANS

"I'm just so sick of this s***," the woman on the phone told me.

She'd just been to a Canberra police station to make a formal report about a man who she alleges inappropriately touched her thigh at a bar in 2017 , the fourth to make an allegation against the former staffer, who has also been accused of raping Brittany Higgins in 2019.

"I'm furious." They all are. All of the women who have been phoning and messaging me over the past week and all of the women I spoke to, over many months, as I researched the Inside the Canberra Bubble story for Four Corners, which aired in November last year.

Before and since that story broke, these women have described to me sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and, yes, sexual assault. I am aware of at least one other incident , a crime , that allegedly happened inside the Parliament. It involves a politician.

These women are intelligent, hard-working, politically savvy. But it is so hard to get them to speak up publicly — and that's why it takes such bravery to be Brittany Higgins or the other women we spoke to for our program. They watch as political staffers "background" favored journalists that the woman complainant is difficult, or hard to work with, or mad.

They see the Prime Minister describe Brittany Higgins as "confused" when she said that his principal private secretary called her out of the blue to "check in" with her — right about the time the Four Corners story went to air last year.

They see the Prime Minister apparently only able to fully grasp the gravity of the serious crime Higgins alleges when his wife speaks to him, and even then, apparently only because he is the father of daughters.

The women who have worked in Parliament that I speak to see all of this, they think about being the woman who, any time someone Googles her name immediately connects her to a sexual scandal not of her own making — a trauma she never asked for — and they shrink back and decide not to come forward after all. They send me private messages or make private phone calls instead.

These women have had enough There is a huge and, before now, untapped fury among these women staffers and politicians. And any government MP or senator who thinks that this is somehow an attack from the other side of politics, or an indication of bias in the fourth estate, is kidding themselves. This is an attack from within.

These women have had enough. There are men in and around Parliament who are probably feeling very nervous right now. And well they might.

The alleged perpetrators are not confined to the Coalition side of the chamber — although in my experience speaking to dozens of politicians and staffers from across the chamber, I have heard far fewer complaints on the other side.

The handful of Labor women who are also alleging privately to me that they have been victimised are also staying schtum. Their reasons include that they don't want to damage their side's chances at the next election.

We need more women in Parliament, but nothing will change until people stick their heads above the parapet to describe how toxic the culture in Canberra can be for women. Last week it was Brittany Higgins. In the Canberra Bubble story, it was, in various ways, staffer Rachelle Miller, Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, conservative Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Labor senator Kristina Keneally, barrister Kathleen Foley.

All spoke of a toxic male-dominated culture which urgently needed to change — or of politicians not living the values they professed to represent to their electorate.

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull also came forward to tell Four Corners what he knew in that story. It would be nice to see more men step up instead of leaving it to the women. Last year when Four Corners gave notice of the Canberra Bubble story to the offices of the two ministers accused of misbehaviour towards women , Christian Porter and Alan Tudge , the program and the ABC were subjected to a campaign to try to shut the story down and to claim that it was not in the public interest.

Representatives of ministers Tudge, Porter and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher emailed the story team, news management, ABC managing director David Anderson and, in one case, the board of the ABC.

The day our story was due to be broadcast, Anderson was grilled in a Senate Budget Estimates hearing by Liberal senators about whether it was in the public interest.

Anderson defended the program, as did ABC chair Ita Buttrose, when Communications Minister Paul Fletcher wrote to her to complain about the story.

Considering that response, it seems astonishing that no-one thought to brief the Prime Minister on the fact that there was another brewing scandal: the alleged rape of a staffer inside Parliament House.

Although journalists Samantha Maiden and Lisa Wilkinson spoke repeatedly with prime ministerial staff in the days before Brittany Higgins's allegations, the PM says his staff never told him.

It also seems astonishing that the Prime Minister didn't think to ask — to demand to know — if there was anything else that he should know that might harm or embarrass his government after the Four Corners episode.

When I put this to the staffer who made the fourth allegation about Ms Higgins's alleged rapist yesterday, she guffawed.

She says "no surprises" was one of the key mantras of staffers when she worked for the government: your minister must be adequately briefed and prepared for scandals that might be brewing in his or her midst.

Even if the staffers involved didn't think this grave allegation was enough to trouble the Prime Minister's weekend, that demonstrates a culture of "don't ask, don't tell" in the Prime Minister's office about grave matters affecting women.

And that says serious things about the culture of the place.


Today ScuMo quoted this article - out of context of course trying to make out that unlike Labor, he would never hide issues of sexual harassment to protect his election chances!

But that is EXACTLY what he did in 2019!! Ms Higgins was allegedly raped 2 months BEFORE the May 18 election in 2019.


So many ministers and staffers knew about it AND the AFP, that he HID the crime from the electorate! Of that there can be no doubt!

Four Corners - By Louise Milligan


LATE NEWS JUST IN: From Twitter by Louise Milligan: "Prime Minister has just quoted me in parliament to prove Labor also has issues re toxic behavior. True, but of dozens & dozens of calls we made to staff & politicians from all sides, vast majority of allegations, volunteered, not sought, were about Liberal & Nationals. #auspol"


AuspollBulletin


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