A parliamentary security officer said she found Brittany Higgins naked in the office of then Defense Secretary Linda Reynolds the night the former Liberal worker was allegedly raped.
Security officer Nikola Anderson told ABC’s Four Corners program that Ms. Higgins was clearly drunk when she entered the building around 2 a.m. with the man alleged to have raped her in March 2019.
Ms. Anderson said around 3:00 am that she and a colleague had told the night shift manager that « something strange may have happened » after the man Ms. Higgins was in a hurry with appeared to be « acting strange. »
She was then asked by her team leader to conduct a welfare check on Ms. Higgins.
« As I approached Minister Reynolds’ office, I opened the door and answered. So I yelled, ‘Security. Hello. Security, security’ … just so she knew I was there, » she said.
« When I opened the door, I noticed that the woman was lying completely naked on her back, in the lounge next to the door that I went for, ‘Oh’, » she said to Four Ecken.
Ms. Anderson thought Ms. Higgins was « just sleeping out of her night » and told Four Corners that she « made sure that her dignity is intact » by closing the door.
« I made sure her dignity was intact by closing that door … I was trying to do the right thing by keeping her dignity intact, » she told Four Corners.
The new details emerged after an independent investigation into which members of the Prime Minister’s Office were aware of Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations were suspended.
The federal opposition has harassed the government over the results of an investigation by Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary Phil Gaetjens.
It examined the government’s response to Ms. Higgins’ allegation that she was raped in the House of Parliament in 2019. The claim is also the subject of an investigation by the Australian Federal Police (AFP).
In a Senate estimate hearing on Monday, Mr. Gaetjens said he was ordered by AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw on March 9 to postpone the final records of employee interviews.
« I was strongly advised … to make sure there was no intersection with the criminal investigation and for this reason I decided to suspend the investigation, » said Gaetjens.
« As a result, I suspended the process of finalizing the documentation of my inquiries and preparing a report to the Prime Minister.
« Both the Commissioner and I are concerned that we are not doing anything that could affect the outcome of the police investigation. »
Mr. Gaetjens said he told Mr. Morrison on March 9, when staff at the Prime Minister’s Office learned about it.
But last week Mr Morrison told Parliament that Mr Gaetjens « did not give me another update on when to expect this report ».
Treasury Secretary Simon Birmingham told the committee that all other investigations, such as Stephanie Foster’s work on support services for bullying, sexual harassment or sexual assault, are still ongoing.
« Mr Gaetjens’ work is the only one that has been interrupted, » said Senator Birmingham.
It came after Mr Kershaw was exposed to his own barbecue on Monday when he admitted he was concerned that the Gaetjens probe might « obstruct » the AFP investigation.
« It’s not helpful at all, and it’s also quite a risky endeavor. For example, even matters reported in the media can influence a fair outcome. »
But Mr. Kershaw insisted that he had not asked Mr. Gaetjens to change, slow down or stop this investigation.
« Although I have the mandate, we are neither embedded in this investigation nor do we want to be, » he said.
The government was forced to reject an attempt to « cover up » the Higgins allegation during a bad start, according to Senate estimates.
Labor spent the Senate’s first morning berating the government for dealing with the alleged rape of Ms. Higgins.
The opposition was outraged when Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson tried to round up Labor interior spokeswoman Kristina Keneally when she questioned Mr. Kershaw on the allegation.
Part of Ms. Keneally’s time was devoured by procedural issues, which she accused Ms. Henderson of hiding behind to prevent Labor from pursuing the Higgins matter.
« You know it looks like you are closing down questions from opposition senators, » she said.
« Not at all, Senator. I’m just asking you to respect the fact that we should share the call and ask all Senators questions, » said Senator Henderson.
Senator Keneally replied that the statement was « a bit lengthy » as Senator Henderson tried to limit the number of questions Labor could ask.
Committee vice chairman and Labor Senator Kim Carr exploded at Senator Henderson’s intervention, saying estimates should give the opposition time to investigate their own issues.
« This is your first meeting (as chairman). If you want to blow up the committee, carry on as you are! » Senator Carr said.
In the finance and government hearing, Senate President Scott Ryan answered questions about Ms. Higgins’ rape allegations and said he did not want to complicate a « serious police investigation ».
The Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) has assisted the Federal Police in « gathering information » but would not provide a timeline for responding to the alleged incident.
Secretary Rob Stefanic said fewer than a dozen department staff knew the details of what happened on the night of March 23, including some parliamentary officials who saw the video surveillance.
In view of the ongoing police investigation, Mr Stefanic refused to answer several questions, including about entering the building.
The move prompted Senator Ryan to step in, saying that they would claim public interest immunity if the council did not allow them to respond.
« It’s very frustrating that … you haven’t been able to prepare for what you could say because it looks like a cover-up, Mr. President, » said Labor Senator Katy Gallagher.
« There’s a public interest in it and the blanket refusal to answer doesn’t look good. »
Previously, Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching had asked Senator Ryan if he had spoken to the spokeswoman, the then Senator of Ms. Higgins or Linda Reynolds or her office, the Prime Minister or his office, the AFP or the employee.
Senator Ryan was also asked if he wished the investigation had been taken as seriously two years ago as it is now.
He said it was « not free » to make his personal observations on revelations that were publicly aired last month.
« I always think the spokesman and I handled it appropriately, » said Senator Ryan.
Senator Ryan said he did not expect to see a copy of Mr. Gaetjens’ investigation and added that he was not a member of the executive branch.
The committee was told that on April 8, 2019, the AFP chairs gave verbal permission to access the CCTV footage.
Senator Ryan said he and Spokesman Tony Smith had considered the procedures for signing people in Parliament.
However, he said senators and members have the right to set the terms of access to their own office.
A woman who lived with a former Liberal worker accused of raping his colleague Brittany Higgins in the Canberra House of Parliament claims she was sexually molested by the man.
Kriti Gupta, a 24-year-old marketing professional, lived with the man from October 2019 to February 2020.
She said she only found out her former roommate was the man who was at the center of the alleged rape in Parliament on March 10 and spoke to police last week to investigate the matter.
« I kept thinking about how many times he touched me and felt uncomfortable, how many times he was sexually suggestive on our old Instagram messages, » Ms. Gupta told The Australian.
Ms. Gupta said the man molested her about every two weeks and only after she finished drinking.
« It was fine the first few days (as a roommate), the first week or so, but after that he got used to whenever he drank, » she said.
« It was never when he was sober. I felt unsafe in my own home. He sat close to me on the couch, rubbing my knee and storming into my room to demand that we go out and do drugs.
Ms. Gupta alleged in December 2019 that the man tried to go into her bedroom at 3 a.m. while drunk and « requesting » sex.
« I pushed him out of the room. Half an hour later I was going on a flight so I was half awake by the time he walked in, » she told The Australian.
« I slammed the door and pushed my suitcase against the door. When I left half an hour later, he was sound asleep. »
Higgins went public on February 15 and officially reported the incident to AFP a few days later.
The AFP interviewed a number of people, but no charges were brought against the man.
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