New claim about alleged Parliament rape
The Federal Government has confirmed that the former senior staffer at the centre of Brittany Higgins' rape claim was on a lobbyist register after he was sacked, as Canberra continues to bicker over who knew what details about the claim.
Overnight, police confirmed they are now formally investigating the case after former Liberal staffer Ms Higgins made an official complaint.
"No additional comment will be made during the investigation," a police statement said.
The man was dismissed from his employment for the Government over the "security breach" in the days after the alleged incident involving Ms Higgins.
But questions have since arisen over whether the man had been to Parliament House since his exit.
While Senator Linda Reynolds told the Senate he was sacked for a security breach, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham told parliament the man was on the list of people who lobbied government representatives in 2020, but was deregistered in May last year.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the man's access pass to Parliament House was cancelled on March 27, 2019 - four days after the alleged rape - but Mr Birmingham told the Senate the Government could not guarantee he had not returned to parliament.
"I am advised that given the logs for signing in guests to Parliament House are manually recorded, it is impossible to establish quickly if the person in question has been signed in to the building by a pass holder at any time since March 2019," Mr Birmingham wrote.
"Of course any member of the public was able to freely enter its public areas prior to COVID-19 restrictions.
"The Lobbyist Register does not contain information about individual meetings that lobbyists undertake."
It is extremely disturbing that the alleged rapist of Brittany Higgins and two other women was on the Attorney General’s Lobbyist Register until May last year. pic.twitter.com/xuO5NxboTj— Adam Bandt (@AdamBandt) February 24, 2021
WHEN DID THE PM FIND OUT?
The Prime Minister has consistently maintained that his office didn't know about the allegation until news.com.au contacted his media team for comment at 2.30pm on Friday, February 12.
But Shadow Education Minister Tanya Plibersek took aim at the PM during an interview with Sky News host Alan Jones, saying that his claim he didn't know about the incident didn't pass the "sniff test".
"Several cabinet ministers knew, several members of his staff knew," she said.
"You need to draw your own conclusions. So many people knew - the idea that they wouldn't tell the boss that this terrible thing had allegedly occurred just metres really from his office don't think it really passes."
MP Adam Bandt said the revelations were "disturbing" and described the allegations as "some of the most shocking in parliamentary history".
"The PM must urgently answer our questions about whether there have been any meetings between the alleged rapist and any Ministers, their staff or Departmental officials since the alleged rape," he said.
"It is unbelievable that the Government would put an alleged rapist back on the lobbying register after being accused of such a vile crime.
"How can women feel safe in parliament, if our Government is allowing an accused predator to return to the same building?
"Not good enough."
WHO ELSE KNEW?
Meanwhile Mr Birmingham, who is leading the review into parliament's workplace culture, told Leigh Sales on ABC's 7.30 last night that he first became aware of the alleged rape "when the media story became public".
He said he had been made aware "at an earlier point" of the storage of CCTV footage about "an incident" but was unaware of the details.
Asked why he didn't inquire what the incident was about, he said: "It wasn't my place."
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds knew in March 2019 and didn't tell the Prime Minister. Employment Minister Michaelia Cash learned of it on February 5, 2021 in an exit interview, and also didn't tell Mr Morrison.
Last week, news.com.au broke the story about Ms Higgins' alleged sexual assault at Parliament House, after a night drinking with colleagues in March 2019. It has prompted a series of investigations into the culture at Parliament House and the types of support and safety available for staff.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton was tipped off by AFP commissioner Reece Kershaw to the rape allegation on February 11 under "sensitive investigation" disclosure guidelines because Ms Higgins contacted police six days earlier, news.com.au revealed.
Ms Reynolds revealed on Tuesday morning she was taking immediate medical leave on the advice of her cardiologist and would not attend parliament for the rest of the week. She also cancelled her appearance at the National Press Club, where she was expected to be grilled over her handling of the allegations.
She said it was a "pre-existing" condition, and spent the night in hospital.
Originally published as New claim about alleged Parliament rape