A fourth woman has come forward to make allegations about the man accused of sexually assaulting former ministerial staffer Brittany Higgins, alleging that he stroked her thigh under the table at Canberra’s Public Bar in 2017.
The latest woman to speak up told the ABC that by the time the alleged incident occurred, she was “just so used to sexual harassment” from male colleagues at Parliament House that she “just brushed it off”.
The woman reportedly made a formal report to the police on Sunday, to support Higgins.
Last week Higgins alleged that she was sexually assaulted by a colleague in former defence industry minister Linda Reynolds’ office in 2019. Since then, a second woman has alleged that she was sexually assaulted by the same man last year, with a third woman making the same allegation in regard to an incident that occurred nearly five years ago.
In an interview with news.com.au on Monday, Higgins criticised Reynolds, stating that the minister’s refusal to answer questions in the Senate due to concerns for Higgins’ privacy was “patently false”.
“I don’t think she’s ever cared about my privacy,” Higgins said.
In response to the interview, Labor senator Penny Wong said:
“Linda Reynolds can no longer refuse to account for her handling of the alleged rape in her office under the guise of respecting Ms Higgins’ privacy. It’s clear to everyone that Ms Higgins expects answers.”
The allegations have sparked several reviews into the culture and workplace processes at Parliament House, as well as the issue of when the prime minister’s office became aware of the 2019 incident.
Scott Morrison has said a number of times that his office only found out about the alleged rape when Higgins’ story was first aired by news.com.au last week.
On Monday Guardian Australia revealed that two of Morrison’s current staffers knew at least some details about the termination of the ex employee who had allegedly sexually assaulted Higgins. He had been sacked for breaching security by entering Parliament House with Higgins on the night the alleged incident occurred.
Text messages have also emerged which suggest members of Morrison’s office were told of the alleged assault within a fortnight of it occurring.