Rape Claim Prompts Australian Parliament Workplace-Culture Probe

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison ordered a probe into workplace culture at Parliament House, after a former government media adviser said she had been raped in the building by a fellow staffer.

The former adviser, Brittany Higgins, claimed that in March 2019 she was 24 and working in the office of then-Defense Industry Minister Linda Reynolds when, after a night of drinking with colleagues, a staffer took her into Parliament House and raped her. No charges have been made, and both Higgins and her alleged assailant no longer work for the government. Reynolds is now the Australian defense minister.

“We have to do more, whether it’s in this workplace or any other workplace in the country, to ensure that people can work safely,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday. “There should not be an environment where a young woman can find herself in such a vulnerable situation.”

Morrison said Prime Minister and Cabinet deputy secretary Stephanie Foster will work to review processes for allegations made in Parliament House, including ensuring automatic reporting of such allegations to department officials, and identifying ways to improve standards and protect staff.

Morrison on Tuesday also apologized to Higgins after she said she had been called into a meeting to discuss the alleged sexual assault in the same office where she claimed the offense took place. Morrison said he only learned about Higgins’s claims on Monday, and had since held discussions with Minister Reynolds and Cabinet about the “seriousness” of the issue.

Higgins’s allegations come after former lawmakers from Morrison’s ruling Liberal Party complained about workplace bullying in Parliament. In 2018, former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop blasted behavior in parliament that wouldn’t be “tolerated in any other workplaces across Australia,” while former lawmaker Julia Banks said bullying had driven her to decide to quit parliament.

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