A woman who says she was raped by a colleague in Australia’s parliament two years ago said in a statement given to Australian media on Friday that she would lodge a formal complaint with police to open an investigation into the incident.
“Firstly, I want a comprehensive police investigation into what happened to me … and for my perpetrator to face the full force of the law,” Brittany Higgins said in the statement, reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Police in the capital Canberra confirmed they had spoken to a woman in April 2019 over the alleged incident though she chose not to make a formal complaint at that time.
Higgins, who worked as a media advisor to the Defence Industry Minister Linda Reynolds, says she had not been encouraged to make a police complaint. Reynolds, who is now defence minister, denies Higgins was pressured against making an official complaint.
“The prime minister has repeatedly told the parliament that I should be given ‘agency’ going forward,” Higgins said in her statement. “I don’t believe that agency was provided to me over the past two years but I seize it now.”
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison apologised to her for the way her complaint was handled at that time, ordering a probe into the government’s workplace culture.
Morrison has since announced three investigations to look at what support is available to staff, processes in place for dealing with complaints as well as the broader workplace culture issues and steps needed to bring parliament in line with other institutions.
In her statement, Higgins said she has advised the Prime Minister’s Office that she expected to have a voice in framing the scope and terms of reference for the review, local news channel reported.
Morrison’s Liberal Party has been dogged by allegations of improper behaviour towards women.
In 2019, female backbench lawmakers said they felt bullied to support a move to oust then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, while a former female Liberal staff member last year made an official complaint of improper behaviour by then immigration minister Alan Tudge.
Tudge has denied the allegation.