‘The Project’s’ Lisa Wilkinson has slammed the culture within Parliament House and questioned what else Prime Minister Scott Morrison doesn’t know about after he denied knowing about Brittany Higgins’ allegation of rape at Parliament House before last week.
After a newspaper published a third accusation of rape, Wilkinson queried an alleged text exchange from 2019 where a fellow Liberal staffer assured Higgins that he’d told a member of the prime minister’s office about her accusation. In the powerful segment on ‘The Sunday Project’, Wilkinson also skewered the PM for having to ask his wife advice on how to handle rape allegations.
“If this really never reached the prime minister, it does beg the question what else doesn’t Scott Morrison get told?” she said.
“Parliament’s culture encouraged some of the senior team surrounding the Prime Minister to see a woman asking for help as a political problem first and a person in need a distant second.”
She continued: “This is a culture the prime minister has presided over for three years.
“Prime Minister, you indicated this week that after a full day to consider the horror of what Brittany says she experienced, you needed your wife to tell you how to react. I wonder if that means that you too have now fallen victim to that culture?”
On Monday afternoon, the ABC reported a fourth woman has made a complaint about the man at the centre of Higgins’ allegations.
Watch Sunday’s full segment below:
Canberra said on Monday it will quickly deliver the result of a planned independent inquiry into parliament’s workplace culture, as pressure grows after a newspaper published a third accusation of sexual assault.
Two female employees of Morrison’s Liberal party said last week they had been raped by the same man in 2019 and 2020.
Both have yet to make a formal police complaint, but Higgins, who has spoken publicly about her alleged rape, said last week that she would do so, though it is unclear if she has lodged one with police.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, who is leading an internal inquiry into workplace culture, said he wanted an investigation that is to be set up next week to be impartial.
“I want complete independence,” he told ABC radio. “I want people to have full confidence that this enquiry is genuinely an independent (one).”
The complaint process is expected to be a central element of the investigation, he said, adding, “This is not something that I expect to drag on for weeks.”
Fuelling pressure on Morrison, the Australian newspaper published on Monday the account of a third woman, who said she had also been raped by the unnamed former Liberal party worker on the night of June 29 and the morning of June 30 in 2016.
“I believe his actions constitute sexual assault, because he performed or tried to perform sexual acts on me while I was severely intoxicated and unable to provide valid and informed consent,” the unidentified woman told the paper.
The incident happened outside parliament, she added.
Already dogged by accusations of improper behaviour towards women, Morrison’s Liberals face a barrage of criticism about the way it handled Higgins’ internal complaint to Linda Reynolds, who is now defence minister.
Higgins has said she felt pressure not to proceed with a formal complaint for fear of losing her job.
Reynolds last week apologised to Higgins but denied that she or her staff pressured her not to pursue a police complaint.
Morrison said he only learnt of the alleged complaints last week, and has sought to placate public anger with an inquiry.
With additional files from Colin Packham of Reuters.