Sunday, September 26

Coalition adviser fired over allegations that employees performed solo sex acts at parliamentary desks Australian politics

A Morrison government adviser was fired after pixelated images of anonymous Coalition advisers allegedly performing lewd sexual acts on female MPs’ desks were broadcast Monday night, deepening the political crisis surrounding workplace culture. in Parliament.

The federal government was hit Monday by new accusations transmission by the Ten Network of male Coalition employees who engaged in vulgar and unprofessional conduct as ABC prepared to air a new episode of Four Corners where a security guard provided a first hand account from what she witnessed the night Brittany Higgins was allegedly raped in the office of then-defense industry minister Linda Reynolds in early 2019.

The prime minister was also accused by the Labor Party of misleading the lower house after he failed to reveal that a departmental investigation into contact between his staff and Higgins had been “paused” by his departmental head on March 9 following the advice. from the Australian Federal Police Chief. Reece Kershaw.

Ten reported allegations Monday night, based on the account of a whistleblower who admitted some of the alleged conduct that he detailed on condition of anonymity, that a group of at least four members of the Coalition staff shared images and videos of sexual acts. through Facebook Messenger. over a two-year period that ended last year.

The report referred to images allegedly of staff members masturbating on parliamentary desks, and the complainant stated that there was “a culture of men who think they can do whatever they want.”

Shadow Labor Minister for Women Tanya Plibersek described the accusations as “extraordinary” and “disgusting”.

In a statement, Scott Morrison said that the allegations contained in the report were “disgusting and disgusting” and that the behavior was “totally unacceptable.”

“My government has identified the staff member at the center of these allegations and has terminated his employment immediately,” the prime minister said. “I urge anyone with more information to come forward. I will have more to say about this and the cultural problems that we will face in parliament in the coming days. “

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said after the report aired that “anyone involved in such activity should prepare to pack up and leave the building for good.”

Birmingham said it was “disgusted and appalled by what I see alleged in relation to that story”, with the alleged conduct showing “total disregard for all that our parliamentary democracy stands for.”

The Finance Minister said that the activity described in the report showed “enormous disrespect for the employer or senator member of those staff” and “total disregard for the Australian taxpayers who have paid the salaries of those staff.”

Meanwhile, ABC aired an eyewitness account of a House of Parliament security guard, Nikola Anderson, who signed with Higgins and the man who allegedly raped her in Reynolds’ office in March 2019. Anderson said that later he saw Higgins naked on a couch. after his colleague left the building.

Anderson said the two employees showed up at Parliament House before 2 a.m. without their security passes. While the employee who allegedly sexually assaulted Higgins was fired a few days after the incident for a security violation, the guard asked what the violation actually was.

“What was the security breach? Because the night we were on duty, there was no security violation, ”Anderson told Four Corners.

“Their pass allows them to be where they want to be within the House of Parliament. If they had not worked for that minister, it would be a different story because we would not have allowed them in because it is not his office, they do not have to be there. But since these two people worked for Minister Reynolds, they were allowed in there, so we gave it to them. “

Anderson revealed that he checked Higgins’s well-being more than two hours after he checked in while intoxicated, and after Higgins’s colleague left the building in what “seemed” like a rush.

The security guard said he identified himself at the office door. When there was no response, he opened the door and “noticed that the woman was lying on her back, completely naked, in the room next to the door.”

Anderson said he noticed Higgins was “conscious” and “breathing” and assumed the young staff member was “just sleeping through the night.” The guard said that he “made sure his dignity was intact by closing this door … he was trying to do the right thing by keeping his dignity intact.”

The guard said he had decided to make a public statement because he was concerned that he would be a “scapegoat” and lose his job if there were criticisms of how security was handling the matter.

Higgins has reported the sexual assault charge to the police. The police investigation is ongoing and no charges have been filed. Several parliamentary officials declined Monday to answer questions about their knowledge and actions on the Higgins affair because the answer could undermine the police investigation.

The government’s difficulties were compounded on Monday when the Labor Party criticized the prime minister for failing to inform parliament that an investigation by Phil Gaetjens into contact between his staff and Higgins had been suspended in the second week of March.

The Labor Party had asked the prime minister a series of questions last week about the status of the Gaetjens investigation, but the prime minister did not disclose the effective suspension of the process despite being warned by Gaetjens that the investigation had stopped in the second week of March.

Gaetjens said at a Senate estimates hearing that he relayed that decision to Morrison and his advisers. “I emailed the staff in the prime minister’s office to tell them that I would not be completing the paperwork, based on the commissioner’s advice, and at the same time, I also said that to the prime minister, in case his staff did anything to him. question. as to what was going on. “

In response to questions from the Labor Party last week, Morrison said Gaetjens had not “provided me with an additional update on when I could expect that report.”

On Monday, Labor leader Anthony Albanese accused Morrison of a deficit of responsibility and empathy, declaring that the prime minister had misled the lower house last Thursday.

Morrison denied misleading the camera. He said that conducting the investigation was a Gaetjens business.

Plibersek told ABC’s 7:30 am show that the government was treating Higgins’s experience as a “political problem that must be dealt with.”

Plibersek said that approach was “terrible for the women involved here, but it also sends a terrible message to anyone who has been the victim of sexual assault.”

“Why would you introduce yourself if this is the way they treat you when you do it?”

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