Fourth woman makes allegation about man at center of Canberra scandal
Sydney, Australia, Feb 22 (efe-epa).- A fourth woman has made an allegation about the same man that former Liberal party staffer Brittany Higgins alleges raped her in Australia’s Parliament House two years ago.
The woman told national broadcaster ABC that the man reached under the table and stroked her thigh in 2017 while drinking with colleagues at a bar after work. She has lodged a police complaint in case her testimony is useful in the investigation.
It comes after two other women – another former staff member of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal party and a former coalition volunteer – made separate claims to The Australian newspaper that they were also sexually assaulted by the same man after they had been out having dinner and/or drinking with him.
The scandal broke last week after Higgins alleged that she was raped in now-Defense Minister Linda Reynolds’ office in March 2019 by the unidentified colleague who was fired after the complaint.
Higgins said she went to the police in April of the same year but eventually decided not to proceed with the complaint for fear that she would lose her “dream job.”
On Friday, Higgins said she had “re-engaged” with the police and was pressing ahead with a formal complaint, ABC reported.
Special Minister of State Simon Birmingham has been tasked with putting together a bipartisan review of Parliament House’s workplace culture, admitted Monday that the rape allegations “weigh heavily” on him.
“And that is, that is, why we have to and must change culture practices,” he said in an interview with ABC.
Meanwhile, Labor Senator Penny Wong told the Senate that “no party, no organization, is immune from these horrific acts” but slammed Morrison, saying that “sympathetic words ring hollow [while] there is no culture of accountability.”
The allegations have shaken the country’s political scene, although the popularity of Morrison, who has apologized for the way Higgins’ complaint was handled and claimed to have found out about the case only recently, rose by a percentage point to 61 percent, according to the latest poll. EFE-EPA