Higgins blasts PM’s ‘offensive’ daughters comment

The trial for the man accused of raping Brittany Higgins is expected to last four weeks.

The trial for the man accused of raping Brittany Higgins is expected to last four weeks. Photo: AAP

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins has delivered a powerful message to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, demanding action on assault and harassment at in federal parliament.

A year after going public about her alleged rape in a minister’s office, Ms Higgins – a former Liberal staffer – told the National Press Club in Canberra she thought little had changed.

“I was raped on a couch in what I thought was the safest and most secure building in Australia,” she said in a highly anticipated address alongside former Australian of the Year, Grace Tame, on Wednesday.

“In a workplace that has a police and security presence 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“The parliament of Australia is safe, it is secure, except if you’re a woman.”

Ms Higgins also called out Prime Minister Scott Morrison for his “shocking” and “offensive” language about women’s safety.

“What bothered me most about the whole ‘imagine if it were our daughters’ spiel wasn’t that he necessarily needed his wife’s advice to help contextualise my rape in a way that mattered to him personally,” she said.

“I didn’t want his sympathy as a father. I wanted him to use his power as prime minister.

“I don’t care if the government has improved the way that they talk about these issues. I’m not interested in words any more. I want to see action.”

Wednesday’s joint address came after Mr Morrison apologised on the floor of parliament on Tuesday – one of 28 recommendations from Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins’ review of its workplace culture.

It was triggered after Ms Higgins went public about her alleged 2019 rape in the office of then-defence industries minister Linda Reynolds.

Ms Tame criticised the apology as a “performative, last-minute Band-Aid electioneering” stunt and called for “proactive, preventative measures” instead.

But Finance Minister Simon Birmingham insisted practical steps were being taken to change parliament’s workplace culture.

“What you saw yesterday was a very sincere apology and that call for further action from the PM,” he told the Seven Network.

Senator Birmingham – who attended the NPC address alongside Minister for Women Marise Payne, Women’s Safety Minister Anne Ruston and Women’s Economic Security Minister Jane Hume – earlier dismissed Ms Tame’s criticism as not “entirely fair”.

Senator Payne labelled the apology a critical step forward.

“Most certainly, the government is committed to implementing all 28 recommendations,” she told ABC radio.

“For [the apology] to be called a stunt is, of course, a matter for Ms Tame, but that is not my view.”

The Jenkins review found one-third of staff surveyed across Commonwealth parliamentary workplaces had been sexually harassed.

On Tuesday, Mr Morrison apologised for a parliamentary culture that had normalised bullying, abuse and sexual harassment.

“The place that should have been a place of safety and contribution turned out to be a nightmare … but [Ms Higgins] had the courage to stand, and so here we are,” he said.

“It is clear that practical and cultural changes are necessary to make our parliamentary workplaces safer.”

Ms Jenkins, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, deputy Labor leader Richard Marles and ACT politicians were also among the attendees at Wednesday’s NPC address.

-with AAP

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