Brittany Higgins ‘disappointed’ meeting with Scott Morrison yet to be organised

Katharine Murphy Political editor
·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Scott Morrison says his office is in the process of arranging a meeting with Brittany Higgins after the former Liberal staffer made it clear she had not heard from the prime minister since the beginning of this month.

Morrison flagged at the end of March he would meet privately with Higgins after she made a formal complaint to the prime minister’s chief of staff, John Kunkel, asking him to examine whether government staff had backgrounded against her or her loved ones.

Higgins alleges she was raped by a colleague on a couch in the then defence industry minister Linda Reynolds’ office in March 2019. No charges have yet been laid.

Related: Brittany Higgins makes formal complaint to PM's chief of staff over alleged backgrounding

She said on Wednesday that despite Morrison’s public overture, she had not heard from the office since 6 April.

“In the spirit of reform, I have publicly and privately accepted the prime minister’s invitation to meet,” Higgins said.

“This decision wasn’t made lightly. However, things cannot be improved unless people are willing to come together and speak plainly about these difficult issues.

“While it’s disappointing that I haven’t heard from the prime minister’s office since they initially made contact on the 6th of April – I’m hopeful the meeting will proceed.

“After two months, a national protest and countless other horrifying stories – the time for action is now.”

Asked about the meeting on the New South Wales Central Coast on Wednesday, Morrison said moves were under way to arrange the conversation.

“It is an important meeting, I look forward to having it,” the prime minister said.

He said the meeting would be “arranged soon”.

Higgins has nominated the subjects she wants canvassed in the conversation, including reform of the legislation governing the employment arrangements of political staffers, and her desire that the government constitute an independent complaints body to hear allegations of bullying, harassment, or worse.

She wants to engage Morrison about security protocols in Parliament House, including empowering guards to intervene to safeguard the welfare of people who enter the building after hours.

In March, the ABC aired an eyewitness account by a Parliament House security guard, Nikola Anderson, who signed in Higgins and the man who is alleged to have raped her in Reynolds’ office in March 2019.

Anderson said she later saw Higgins naked on a couch after her colleague had left the building, but she did not call an ambulance or intervene. She revealed that she checked on Higgins’ welfare over two hours after she was signed in in an intoxicated state, and after Higgins’ colleague departed the building in what “seemed” like a hurry.

The security guard said she identified herself at the office door. After there was no response she opened the door and “noticed that the female was lying on her back, completely naked, on the lounge that was adjacent to the door”.

Anderson said she noted Higgins was “conscious” and “breathing” and she assumed the young staffer was “just sleeping off her night”. The guard said she “made sure her dignity was intact by shutting this door”.

Higgins has also flagged she wants to discuss imposing more transparency on the so-called “star chamber” that governs the appointment of government staff.

The former staffer has also said she wants to bring advocates to accompany her during the meeting with the prime minister so she is supported during the conversation. She has nominated a couple of dates late in April when she would be available to come to Canberra.

• In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. International helplines can be found via www.befrienders.org.