WATCH: Brittany Higgins’ brutal swipe at PM
Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins has delivered an emotional public address at the Canberra March 4 Justice, including a powerful swipe at Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
In her first public appearance since she went public with her story with news.com.au on February 15, Ms Higgins shocked the crowd when she stood to speak in front of thousands of protestors.
"These past few weeks on a personal level have been extremely difficult, she told the screaming crowd. "Like many of you I have watched this all play out in the media.
"I watched as the Prime Minister of Australia publicly apologised to me through the media, while privately his media team actively undermined and discredited my loved ones.
"I tuned into Question Time to see my former bosses, people that I had dedicated my life to, downplay my lived experience.
"I have read the news updates every day at 5am, because I was waking up to new information about my own sexual assault through the media. Details that were never disclosed to me by my employers, information that would have helped me as questions that have haunted me for years.
"I watched as people hid behind throwaway phrases like due process and presumption of innocence while failing to acknowledge how the justice system is notoriously stacked against victims of sexual crime.
"I read the advice from defence chief Angus Campbell who advised women on how not to fall prey to those who have the proclivity to harm others.
"Advice aimed solely at modifying the behaviour of victims and does nothing to address the actions of perpetrators."
The government has previously denied Ms Higgins' partner David Sharaz's claims that the PMO media team was "backgrounding" journalists against him.
When Finance Minister Simon Birmingham was grilled on the topic in the Senate, he said he had "no awareness of any such activity being undertaken".
"I will take those matters up with the Prime Minister. I am certain that he has no tolerance for such activities," Mr Birmingham said.
It's the first time she has returned to Parliament since she quit her job with Employment Minister Michaelia Cash in preparation to tell her story.
Speaking during Question Time afterwards, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was "good and right" that Australians were marching but did not directly refer to Ms Higgins' emotional speech to the crowd.
"Women and men are gathering together in rallies both large and small to call for change and to act against violence directed towards women,'' he said.
"It is good and right that so many are able to gather here in this way, whether in our capital or elsewhere, and to do so peacefully to express their concerns and their very genuine and real frustrations. This is a vibrant liberal democracy, Mr Speaker, not far from here, such marches, even now, are being met with bullets, but not here in this country."
The Prime Minister said that those that gathered in Canberra around the country did so out of a sense of great frustration.
"Our job is still not yet done. It is far from done, on all of these matters," he said.
But Labor leader Anthony Albanese accused the Prime Minister of failing to show leadership.
"We had today women gather around Australia with a few very clear and unambiguous messages - hear us roar!" he said.
"The Prime Minister needs to listen. To listen to what women are saying about what is happening in this building, and outside. They said enough is enough. It requires leadership from this Prime Minister. And we are not getting it, Prime Minister. We need an independent inquiry into the allegations that have been made."
Mr Albanese also directly referenced Ms Higgins' claim that members of the Morrison Government were backgrounding against her.
"Listen to what Brittany Higgins had to say. She said this, 'I watched as the Prime Minister of Australia publicly apologised to me through the media while privately his team actively undermined and discredited my loved ones,'" he said.
"Listen to it."
Ms Higgins' harrowing story of an alleged sexual assault in the Canberra office of Defence Minister Linda Reynolds sparked the movement behind the March 4 Justice rallies around Australia.
In recent weeks, Ms Higgins also claimed a legal victory against her former employer with Senator Reynolds publicly apologising for calling her a "lying cow" and paying undisclosed damages that will be donated to a Canberra based organisation helping victims of sexual assault.
Ms Higgins is in Canberra to pack up her former home and move to Queensland after she quit her job to tell her story.
Earlier, the women running the March 4 Justice refused an offer by Prime Minister Scott Morrison to meet with the protesters.
While there were concerns that female Liberal MPs would snub the march, a number of MPs turned up to show their support.
Originally published as Brittany Higgins' brutal swipe at PM