‘It’s gross’: Higgins hits out at smear campaign claims
Brittany Higgins has hit out at the federal government amid claims it there is an unofficial government briefing against her.
Ms Higgins, a former Liberal staffer who recently alleged she was raped at parliament house, spoke out after Network Ten political editor Peter van Onselen made the startling claim this morning.
Mr van Onselen alleged that the prime minister's office was backgrounding journalists to smear her partner, a former public servant, saying he has a "gripe" against the government.
Ms Higgins told Guardian Australia that going public with her story would have consequences.
"I knew personally that when I decided to put my name and face to this there would be repercussions for me," Ms Higgins told Guardian Australia. "But I think it's unfair if they are starting to try and take this out on loved ones".
"I think it speaks to the systematic problems of this place.
"It silences people and I think it's gross."
It comes after Senator Jacqui Lambie called for Defence Minister Linda Reynolds to resign "this morning" over her handling of former staffer Ms Higgins' rape allegations.
Ms Higgins, who was aged 24 at the time, claims she was raped by a colleague in the minister's office in March 2019 and was later called to an employment meeting in the room it occurred.
Senator Lambie has joined the opposition in demanding Senator Reynolds resign after it was revealed she did not inform the Prime Minister about the allegations.
"It stinks of cover-up, it is extremely worrying," Senator Lambie told Today.
"I think now with the performance of Linda Reynolds, both in her Defence portfolio and now this, it is time for her to step down.
"She should do that this morning."
Senator Lambie said she did not have "any faith" in the parliament to deal with Ms Higgins' allegations and was concerned about her wellbeing.
"I think if she wants the investigation done and wants it done properly it needs to be taken out of the hands of parliament," she said.
"She has a long way to go. This could affect her."
Senator Reynolds has apologised in the Senate to her former staffer.
Scott Morrison has agreed to an independent review into the workplaces of the parliament and its staff.
"It is my expectation that this review would be conducted at arm's length of government," Mr Morrison wrote in a letter to Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.
He said it would consult widely across parliamentarians and their staff, the departments and agencies that support their work and provide "constructive feedback" on measures that can be implemented.
Crossbench MP Rebekah Sharkie, who was among politicians calling for an external review, said she hoped it would achieve structural change.
"It really should be wide-ranging to everyone who has a pass so that we can ensure that people have a safe pathway should they experience any form of intimidation, assault or, in Brittany's case, a very serious sexual assault (allegation)," Ms Sharkie told ABC.
"I want to ensure that no person that works in this place ever feels so alone and feels that they have no one to turn to."
Ms Sharkie said the gender of the person leading the review did not matter.
HIGGINS CLAIMS PM STAFFER REFUSED ACCESS TO CRUCIAL CCTV FOOTAGE
Brittany Higgins on Wednesday issued a scathing response in the wake of the Morrison Government's response to her sexual assault allegations.
On Wednesday, Ms Higgins released a statement that read: "I have only been made aware of key elements of my own sexual assault as a result of coming forward publicly with my story.
"I didn't know that security guards let me into Minister Reynolds suite. I didn't know that a security guards [sic] came into the office multiple times seeing me in a state of undress. I didn't know they were undertaking an internal review into how the matter was handled at the time. I didn't know that they debated calling an ambulance at the time of the incident.
"The continued victim-blaming rhetoric by the Prime Minister is personally very distressing to me and countless other survivors.
"A current senior staffer to the Prime Minister and my former Chief-of-Staff refused to provide me with access to the CCTV footage from that evening and continually made me feel as if my ongoing employment would be jeopardised if I proceeded any further with the matter.
"The Government has questions to answer for their own conduct."
AUSTRALIAN OF THE YEAR REACTS TO PARLIAMENT RAPE ALLEGATION
Australian of the Year and sexual assault survivor Grace Tame has weighed in on Brittany Higgins' federal parliament rape allegations.
Ms Tame said her thoughts were with Ms Higgins, a former Liberal staffer who this week broke her silence and claimed she was raped by a colleague at Parliament House and later brought to a formal employment meeting about the incident in the same room the alleged sexual 2019 assault occurred.
"Speaking out takes incredible courage, and I hope justice is reached," Ms Tame wrote on social media.
She said the case of Ms Higgins' alleged rape was "another reminder for us all of the need for survivor voices to raise awareness and improve our collective understanding of sexual abuse".
"To have been referenced as inspiration for Brittany is a positive reinforcement of the power of solidarity," she said.
Ms Higgins previously said she was moved to speak out after being inspired by Ms Tame.
"I stand with survivors. I am an advocate for normalising the conversation and breaking the cycle of shame," Ms Tame wrote.
"As such, I'm here to empower people and encourage the platform to be shared. I don't believe it's appropriate for me to take the microphone when others are bravely coming forward."
As a sexual assault survivor, Ms Tame, 26, from Hobart, was named 2021 Australian of the Year for her bravery in speaking about child sexual abuse, trauma, and grooming.
Ms Tame made her mark through News Corp's #LetHerSpeak campaign which in 2019, took her legal case to be able to publicly self-identify as a rape survivor to the Supreme Court of Tasmania, and won.
When she accepted the award on Australia Day, she said the win was "for all survivors of child sexual abuse".
She said she would use the year ahead to focus on "education as a means of prevention".
"Discussion of child sexual abuse is uncomfortable. But nothing is as uncomfortable as abuse itself," she said.
"I lost my virginity to a paedophile. I was 15, anorexic. He was 58, my teacher. For months he groomed me, then abused me every day: Before school, after school, in my uniform, on the floor. I didn't know who I was.
"Publicly, he described his crimes as 'awesome'. Publicly, I was silenced by law. Let Her Speak helped give me a voice."
Ms Higgins alleges a male colleague raped her in the office of then-defence industry Minister Linda Reynolds after a night out in 2019.
She released a statement on Tuesday welcoming a "long overdue" investigation into the culture at Parliament House which was announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
She also called for a review into the laws that govern ministerial workplaces.
"A clear path forward is now required - and that includes a comprehensive review to the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act to ensure adequate protections for staff," Ms Higgins wrote.
"There needs to be an independent reporting mechanism for staff where they can confidently and safely make complaints - similar to processes in many other workplaces in Australia and abroad."
Ms Higgins said days after the alleged rape, she was called to a meeting with Senator Reynolds in the same office where the assault allegedly happened.
Ms Reynolds apologised "unreservedly" to Ms Higgins in the Senate on Tuesday and said more could have been done to help her.
"No woman should ever have to go through what she has clearly been through," she said.
"That trauma that comes not just in the immediate aftermath of an assault, but in the many months and the many years that follow it, is what those of us in this building failed to acknowledge."
The Prime Minister also apologised to Ms Higgins, saying: "This should not be an environment where a young woman can find herself in such a vulnerable situation.
"That is not OK."
Mr Morrison announced West Australian MP Celia Hammond, former vice-chancellor of the University of Notre Dame, would now work with Coalition MPs on setting new standards.
He asked Stephanie Foster, a senior bureaucrat in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, to advise him on setting up an external complaints handling process that will allow women to make complaints without fear.
In addressing how the meeting between Senator Reynolds and Ms Higgins was held in the same room of the alleged rape, Mr Morrison said: "That should not have happened and I do apologise. That shouldn't have happened.
"That's one of I suspect many process issues that Stephanie Foster will I hope identify to ensure those improvements are made."
Originally published as 'It's gross': Higgins hits out at smear campaign claims