Linda Reynolds apologises to former staffer Brittany Higgins in the Senate chamber on February 16, 2021 in Canberra, Australia. Picture: APH via NCA NewsWire , ,
Linda Reynolds apologises to former staffer Brittany Higgins in the Senate chamber on February 16, 2021 in Canberra, Australia. Picture: APH via NCA NewsWire , ,

Albo calls for key scalp over rape claim

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds should resign for withholding details of an alleged rape in her parliament office from the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese says.

Scott Morrison has been grilled over the timeline of events after he told the parliament he didn't find out about the alleged incident between two Liberal staffers - which happened in Senator Reynolds' office - until Monday morning but reiterated he had full confidence in the Defence Minister.

Mr Morrison told a joint party room meeting on Tuesday that while Ms Reynolds did her best to support alleged victim Brittany Higgins, it was unacceptable that she did not feel that way.

The Prime Minister on Tuesday publicly rebuked Ms Reynolds for not alerting him to the details of the alleged rape, and Mr Albanese called for her to be fired.

Anthony Albanese has criticised the government’s handling of the alleged rape at Parliament House. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage
Anthony Albanese has criticised the government’s handling of the alleged rape at Parliament House. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage

"If I was the prime minister and these events had occurred, and a minister in my cabinet had kept any information from me or my office, then they wouldn't be still maintaining that position," he told Sky News.

Young Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins broke her silence this week, claiming she was raped by a colleague at Parliament House and brought to a formal employment meeting about the incident in the room where the alleged 2019 sexual assault occurred.

Senator Reynolds apologised to Ms Higgins in the parliament on Tuesday.

The Labor leader also criticised Mr Morrison for cancelling media events on Wednesday, accusing him of avoiding scrutiny.

"This is a very serious issue and it needs to be taken seriously. We need just some straight answers about what occurred and when," he said.

Ms Higgins alleged she was contacted by a key adviser to the Prime Minister, whom she described as his "fixer", for a "check-in" after the incident.

A second check-in occurred soon after the ABC aired allegations of inappropriate behaviour by Liberal ministers towards staffers, Ms Higgins said.

 

Mr Albanese said while her wishes should be respected, the incident raised "a whole range of questions" that went "beyond privacy".

Independent MP Zali Steggall has called for an independent assessment of harassment and sexual abuse within parliament.

Labor's government accountability spokeswoman Kristina Keneally has also taken a swipe at Mr Morrison, saying he shouldn't take action over the alleged rape at Parliament House just because he was a father.

The Prime Minister on Tuesday revealed that a conversation with his wife Jenny, who told him to think as a father first, changed his perspective.

Mr Morrison recalled being asked, "What would you want to happen if it were our girls?"

But Senator Keneally told Sky News that any human being didn't need to be a father of daughters to understand what had happened.

Kristina Keneally says men don’t need daughters to know rape is wrong. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Kristina Keneally says men don’t need daughters to know rape is wrong. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

"What I also don't understand is why the Prime Minister had to point to a conversation with his wife, and observe that he was the father of daughters, to understand that an alleged rape is wrong and the victim should be supported," she said.

Mr Morrison told the parliament that he did not find out about the allegations until Monday morning when the claims were aired.

But Senator Keneally said those revelations pointed to an "ongoing culture of cover up".

She said the Prime Minister and Ms Reynolds - whose office the alleged incident occurred in - needed to answer more questions about reports that parliament security felt the incident was not being addressed appropriately.

"The work hard, play hard culture is here," Senator Keneally said.

"However, it doesn't need to come with women feeling unsafe, women feeling like sexual objects and women feeling that if they are assaulted or harassed that they can't bring those complaints forward."

Originally published as Albo calls for key scalp over rape claim

Scott Morrison publicly scolded Linda Reynolds for not informing him of the alleged rape. Picture: Mick Tsikas / AAP Image
Scott Morrison publicly scolded Linda Reynolds for not informing him of the alleged rape. Picture: Mick Tsikas / AAP Image


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