News, Culture & Society

Inside the intense meeting between Brittany Higgins and Scott Morrison

Brittany Higgins has met with Prime Minister Scott Morrison for the first time since she made claims she was raped by a colleague inside Parliament House in 2019.

Speaking after the meeting at the Commonwealth Parliamentary offices in Sydney on Friday afternoon, Ms Higgins said the discussion between the pair was ‘robust’. 

The former Liberal staffer met Mr Morrison to discuss her plans to make workplaces safer for employees. 

‘The Prime Minister acknowledged that the system has let me down and we were in agreement that there needs to be reform,’ Ms Higgins told reporters. 

‘It was a difficult conversation to have on a personal level. It was very hard to come here. We discussed that there needs to be better safeguards for staffers where there are power dynamic issues between parliamentarians and individual staffers.’ 

Brittany Higgins has met with Scott Morrison on Friday afternoon in their first conversation since she made her allegations (pictured after the meeting) 

Former political staffer Brittany Higgins (centre) alongside boyfriend David Sharaz (right)

Former political staffer Brittany Higgins (centre) alongside boyfriend David Sharaz (right)

The former Liberal staffer, who claims she was raped by a colleague in Parliament House in 2019, is due to meet Mr Morrison at the Commonwealth Parliamentary offices in Sydney on Friday afternoon

The former Liberal staffer, who claims she was raped by a colleague in Parliament House in 2019, is due to meet Mr Morrison at the Commonwealth Parliamentary offices in Sydney on Friday afternoon

She also said they had discussed the establishment of a new workplace overseer. 

‘We had a robust discussion about the need for an independent authority on human resources,’ Ms Higgins said. 

‘It was a difficult conversation but in the end there was a consensus that reform needs to happen.’ 

Ms Higgins had already met with Labor leader Anthony Albanese and was pictured leaving his offices alongside her boyfriend, former journalist David Sharaz.

After their meeting, Mr Albanese described Ms Higgins as ‘impressive and courageous.’

‘It was a very constructive discussion. Brittany Higgins is a very impressive woman. She has shown extraordinary courage in coming forward to be a voice, to be a voice standing up for women, standing up for issues that need real solutions,’ he told reporters.

‘Brittany Higgins will be putting forward to the prime minister a range of reforms that are necessary… we need to listen to women and to listen to their concerns, to listen to the experience that they’ve gone through, and to listen to their views about solutions.’  

Ms Higgins’ ideas to improve workplace safety include updating rules for parliamentary security to encourage them to block drunk staff from entering the building and call an ambulance if anyone is found unconscious.

She claims she was sexually assaulted after security let her and a colleague into the building after a boozy night out.

Her attacker allegedly raped her on a couch in then-defence minister Linda Reynold’s office before she was found half-naked and unconscious by security hours later.

Ms Higgins’ other proposals include setting up an independent complaints body to replace the current system where victims make complaints through the Department of Finance.

Brittany Higgins will meet with Prime Minister Scott Morrison to discuss her plans to make workplaces safer for employees

Brittany Higgins will meet with Prime Minister Scott Morrison to discuss her plans to make workplaces safer for employees

Ms Higgins appeared in high spirits as she left Mr Albanese's office in the Sydney CBD

Ms Higgins appeared in high spirits as she left Mr Albanese’s office in the Sydney CBD

Brittany Higgins’ six demands 

Change laws around staff employment so they can’t be sacked without reason 

Set up an independent complaints body 

Set up a parliamentary conduct ombudsman similar to the Independent Parliamentary Expense Authority

Reveal the membership of the Government Staffing Committee

Reveal who sits on the so-called ‘star chamber’, a group of ministers and staffers which vets political staff

Improved Protocols and Procedures for DPS Employees

Source: Ms Higgins’ letter shared with news.com.au 

She also wants legal changes to give parliamentary staff, who can be sacked without a reason, greater employment rights.

Ms Higgins revealed her proposals in a letter to the prime minister which she shared with news.com.au.

‘As I made clear in my public statements, I consider this an incredibly important opportunity to fix a broken system and ensure no other staff has to experience something similar in Parliament House again,’ she wrote in the letter. 

‘Too often, a workplace culture can emerge that enables inappropriate conduct which is exacerbated by the disparity in the power dynamics inside offices, among colleagues, inside political structures more broadly, even among lobbyists and the media who share the same workplace.’ 

Ms Higgins triggered national debate about the treatment of women and the handling of sexual assault complaints.

She has been highly critical of senior ministers’ response to her initial complaint, which has been reinstated with police.

The prime minister has instigated an inquiry into whether his office was briefing journalists against Ms Higgins’ partner in an attempt to discredit and undermine her.

Senator Reynolds, the minister whose parliamentary office was the site of the alleged attack, told 6PR radio she was assisting police with their inquiries.

‘The AFP are investigating her allegations and I am assisting the AFP with their investigation,’ she said.

Ms Reynolds said cultural change and improved behaviour was needed in Parliament House.

‘Across all parties we have got a lot of work to do to really make some significant change in how our parliament operates. 

Earlier this month, Ms Higgins signed a $250,000 book deal to publish a memoir detailing her experience. 

Ms Higgins (pictured with Scott Morrison) alleges she was sexually assaulted after security let her and a colleague into the building after a boozy night out

Ms Higgins (pictured with Scott Morrison) alleges she was sexually assaulted after security let her and a colleague into the building after a boozy night out

Penguin Random House Australia called Ms Higgins ‘a young, brave voice and a pioneer for a new generation’ and said it would publish her book in 2022.

‘Brittany’s story, in her own words, will be a call for desperately needed reform, and a watershed moment for Australian women in public life,’ the publisher said.

Ms Higgins said in a statement: ‘This book will shine a light on the toxic workplace culture inside the corridors of power and provide a first-hand account of what it was like surviving a media storm that turned into a movement.’

She said half of the royalties of each book will be donated to the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre which helped her during her time of need. 

Police are investigating Ms Higgins’ allegations.    

The prime minister's chief of staff wrote to Ms Higgins to organise the meeting and outline which topics will be discussed

The prime minister’s chief of staff wrote to Ms Higgins to organise the meeting and outline which topics will be discussed

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk