Sexual assault allegations rock politics | Ralph-Lauren

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Rape allegations that have rocked federal politics continue to fuel calls for an urgent cultural overhaul inside Parliament House.

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins says she was sexually assaulted by a colleague in a minister’s office in 2019.

Three other women have come forward to accuse the same man of sexual assault.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds are under pressure to justify the government’s response to the incident.

Former Liberal MP Sharman Stone has vowed to keep pursuing the issue, which she says centres on an endemic toxic culture in politics.

“This has to be a circuit breaker. We Liberal women, I’m still a member of the party, no longer a member of parliament, we are not going to let this go,” she told Sky News.

Dr Stone said the four inquiries announced by the prime minister appeared a chaotic and knee-jerk political response.

“I’m worried it will be a quick and dirty ‘let’s show we’ve got an outcome with 43 recommendations for each and we’ll get back to you’.”

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said it was extraordinary that Mr Morrison continued to say he wasn’t aware of the incident until last Monday.

“There are at least two people in his office who were fully aware of the circumstances,” Mr Albanese told reporters.

“They work for him. How can he then say that his office didn’t know?”

He wants the review by Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Philip Gaetjens, who was Mr Morrison’s former chief of staff, to be released publicly.

Mr Gaetjens is looking into when Mr Morrison’s office knew about the incident concerning Ms Higgins.

The other reviews are into departmental complaint structure, Liberal Party culture and parliament as a workplace.

Cabinet minister Greg Hunt is confident the multiple inquiries will achieve results.

“There will be very clear change and they will be improved systems, and I think that that’s an important thing,” he said.

Liberal MP Jason Falinski believes politicians need more training to take responsibility for safe workplaces, similar to the corporate world.

“I’ve never gone through what Linda has gone through and experienced,” he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

“Hopefully I never will, but the point is, in that training you are given warning signals that you should look for.”

The Greens are pushing for a six-month independent inquiry to be conducted by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins with input from former staffers.



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