A guard on duty the night of the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins in a Parliament House ministerial office has questioned Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s claim it was a “security breach”.
Higgins, a former Liberal staffer, alleges she was raped by a colleague in minister Linda Reynolds’ office in March 2019.
Experienced security guard Nikola Anderson found Higgins naked on a couch in the office after the alleged rape, she told the ABC’s Four Corners program on Monday.
Higgins and the male colleague turned up at parliament’s ministerial entrance just before 2am on the day in question and were greeted by Anderson at the security desk.
The male staffer indicated he needed to pick something up from the office, but neither of them had their parliamentary passes.
Anderson issued them with temporary passes, took them to the office, unlocked the door and let them in but did not stay.
Higgins alleges she fell asleep on a couch and woke to find her colleague “mid-rape”.
The ABC said security footage showed the man left Parliament House at 2.35am.
When Anderson was told by a colleague the man had left Parliament House “in a hurry” they notified the night shift team leader that “there might’ve been something a bit strange going on”.
Anderson was asked to do a welfare check on Higgins, and around 4.20am found Higgins naked on a lounge.
Noting Higgins was conscious and did not look to be in distress, the guard shut the door and went back to her duties.
The male staffer was sacked, but there has been conjecture as to why.
Last month, Scott Morrison said the staffer had been terminated over a “security breach”.
But Anderson told the ABC: “What was the security breach? Because the night that we were on shift, there was no security breach.”
“Their pass enables them to be where they want to be within Parliament House. If they hadn’t worked for that minister, that would be a different story because we wouldn’t have allowed them entry because it’s not their office, they have no business being in there,” she said.
Meanwhile, an investigation into what the prime minister’s staff knew about the alleged has been paused over fears it could interfere with the police investigation.
Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Phil Gaetjens, who has been asked by Morrison to check who knew about the allegation and when, told a Senate estimates hearing he had acted on Australian Federal Police advice to halt his probe.
AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw said he had told Gaetjens it was “strongly advisable” to hold off finalising interviews with staff until police could clarify any possible crossover.
He pledged to contact Gaetjens to approve restarting the inquiry once it was determined there was no intersection between the investigations.
Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek said the prime minister was unwilling to deal with the substance of the issues and “wants to treat it just as a political problem to be managed”.
“That’s bad for Brittany Higgins and bad for other staff in this building who might come forward,” she told the ABC.
“But it’s also terrible for all Australians who might be considering reporting a sexual assault if they think: ‘Look how hard it is to get someone to listen and believe me’. Why would they come forward? It makes it so much harder.”