Tag Archives: Brittany Higgins

Morrison (inadvertently) admits he knew?

28 Mar

The following information was reported by Channel Nine news on the evening of Friday March 26, and has so far escaped the attention it deserves.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison states in this interview that when Brittany Higgins expressed her intention to resign from the office of Michaelia Cash in January 2021, she was offered the opportunity to speak with him before her allegations of rape by a senior staffer in Parliament House were aired in the media. 

“At the time just before she departed she was offered the opportunity to come and speak with me with Minister Cash,” he says. 

The Higgins story broke on February 15 2021. Morrison has steadfastly denied that he knew anything about the alleged rape of Ms Higgins until that day. 

Ms Higgins left Cash’s office on February 5 2021, ten days before the story broke. 

Why would the Prime Minister offer to meet with Ms Higgins prior to her departure from Cash’s office, if, as he has maintained for the last two months and stated several times in Parliament, he knew nothing about the alleged rape until it was aired in the media? 

Facing intense questioning on the involvement of his department and himself, Morrison instructed Secretary Phil Gaetjens to conduct an inquiry into when the PMO knew about the alleged rape, and who had been informed. This inquiry has since been halted, though Morrison did not notify Parliament of its cessation, leading the House to believe it was still underway. 

Senator Cash has denied that she knew the “full details” of the allegations until Ms Higgins indicated her intention to resign at the end of January. 

Why would Cash consider accompanying Ms Higgins to a proposed meeting with the Prime Minister if Cash believed Morrison knew nothing about the alleged rape and indeed, had only just found out herself? 

Ms Higgins, by the way, says she was never informed of this invitation from the Prime Minister. 

It’s not clear if Cash was ever informed, either. 

Morrison has gone to extraordinary lengths to convince Parliament and the general public that he was ignorant of the rape allegations until the story appeared in the media on February 15. He claims his office was unaware until February 12.

In one sentence, the Prime Minister has done irrevocable damage to this narrative. He has also exposed the unreliability of all other accounts that have been tailored to support his own, accounts from ministers, senators, senior public servants and staffers.

Morrison’s one sentence has the power to bring the entire dysfunctional edifice crashing down, if the press gallery will follow it up. 

If the Prime Minister didn’t know, why would he extend an offer to meet with Ms Higgins in January? 

If the Prime Minister did know, he’s been lying to Parliament and the public. 

Either way, he’s a liar. 

The Morrison government is a sewer

28 Feb

An allegation of the brutal anal rape of a child in 1988 has been made against an un-named minister in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s cabinet. 

The victim took her own life in June 2020. NSW police have confirmed that a criminal investigation into the allegation dies with the victim.

Despite their knowledge that police will not investigate because the complainant is dead, government ministers and some journalists continue to claim that the matter must be left to the police. 

All of them are wrong, according to police. 

Morrison said that he has referred the allegations to police. 

Simon Birmingham, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, yesterday said the accused minister will not be stood aside, and that the matter should be left to police. 

(It is puzzling that Birmingham is commenting on this. It would seem to be more appropriately the job of senior lawmaker Attorney-General Christian Porter, who has thus far remained silent.) 

On ABC Insiders program this morning, Australian Financial Review journalist Phil Coorey repeated the government line.  “This is for the coppers,” he stated, “and it should be for the coppers first and foremost.”

This seems at first blush to be wilful ignorance, gross carelessness, the peddling of misinformation, or an attempt to yet again create and control a narrative that best favours the government.  

The accused minister has not come forward to defend himself against the allegations. It is not credible that anyone who is innocent would want to continue public life with accusations such as these left unaddressed, and yet, that appears to be the case.

It is also only a matter of time until the suspect is named. There appears to be no legal requirement to suppress his name, particularly as there will be no trial. He can also be named under parliamentary privilege. It is undoubtedly in the public interest for his name to be released, and were he anyone other than a Liberal cabinet minister, he would not probably not be protected by anonymity. Footballers, for example, are stood aside while allegations of sexual assault are investigated, and they are named.  Not so much cabinet ministers, it appears. 

It is also remarkable that the accused minister appears to be happy for his cabinet colleagues to be tainted by the rape allegations. As long as we do not know who the minister is, there are around sixteen possibilities in the cabinet. Every time a cabinet minister opens his mouth we can legitimately ask, are you the alleged child rapist? This can’t help but have a destabilising effect on the government, as its already tenuous legitimacy is further eroded by the presence of an anonymous alleged rapist in its highest ranks. 

Then there is the question of national security, a subject close to the hearts of both Morrison, and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, also a cabinet member. In 2017 when Malcolm Turnbull was Prime Minister, he had occasion to warn Christian Porter, prior to making him Attorney-General, that his drinking and his behaviours towards young women were leaving him open to the possibility of compromise, making him a security risk: 

“…it is just not acceptable. And he knew that I was considering appointing him attorney general, which of course is the first law officer of the crown, and has a seat on the national security committee, so the risk of compromise is very, very real.”

By the same token, one may conclude that an anonymous cabinet minister who is accused of the brutal anal rape of a child might well be a prime target for blackmail, and is a serious security risk. 

Indeed, everyone in the cabinet who is aware of and concealing the alleged rapist’s identity is a security risk, and vulnerable to exploitation.  

Is this government even tenable while this matter is “left to the coppers?”

It is alarming that Morrison seems oblivious to the security dangers the situation presents. It’s even more alarming that Morrison seems entirely impervious to the immorality of protecting and hiding an alleged child rapist. 

The hideous situation has come to light just days after the government spectacularly failed to cope with the alleged rape of media advisor, Brittany Higgins, in Parliament House just metres from the Prime Minister’s office. 

Ms Higgins was left unconscious and half naked by her attacker on Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ couch. This could have cost Ms Higgins her life, as she was inebriated and unable to care for herself. Security guards “checked on” Ms Higgins through the night, but nobody called for medical assistance. At least thirty people, including ministers, the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate and the Prime Minister’s Office most senior staff knew about this “serious incident,” and none of them informed the Prime Minister until two years later.   

The Morrison government is a sewer. It is steeped in allegations of rape and sexual assault of the most serious and sickening kind. It is almost certain that Morrison will attempt to brazen out this latest allegation. He will not stand the minister aside, and he will continue to contend that it is a matter for police, in full knowledge that the police cannot pursue criminal charges. 

The minister will not be investigated by police. He will not be exonerated. His name will not be cleared. Suspicion will linger over the heads of all male cabinet members, including Scott Morrison, Christian Porter and Peter Dutton. 

We should probably assume that being suspected of the anal rape of a child does not necessarily perturb any of them.  

While we know not all cabinet ministers are alleged child rapists, we do not know which one is. The Prime Minister is doing everything possible to conceal that knowledge from us.   

How good is that? 

“He said, she said”: How Dutton is attempting to control the narrative

26 Feb

One of the greatest challenges for a political commentator in recent years has been keeping track of the Morrison government’s lies and obfuscations. 

These have escalated considerably in the last couple of weeks, since former media advisor Brittany Higgins revealed she had allegedly been raped in Parliament House by a senior staffer.

Since then, ministers, MPs, Senators, their advisors and staffers have devoted an inordinate amount of their taxpayer-funded time to covering their backsides about who knew what and when. According to estimates by the  ABC’s 7.30 program last night, there appear to be thirty or more people with knowledge of the so-called “serious incident” in 2019, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison conspicuously excluded from the circle of knowledge.

The latest government member to speak up is Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton. Dutton is, among other things, the minister responsible for the Australian Federal Police, as well having once served as a police officer in the Queensland Police sex offenders’ squad. 

You need this background as context for what comes next. 

In keeping with the government line that neither the Prime Minister’s Office nor the Prime Minister knew anything about the alleged rape before February 12 2021 and February 15 2021 respectively, Dutton claims he was only informed of the alleged crime by the AFP on February 11 2021, and only because they had been alerted that the matter was about to be revealed by the media.  

AFP guidelines require that “politically sensitive” matters such as this alleged crime be reported to the Minister as soon as possible. The AFP first became aware of the allegations on April 4 2019, when informed by Defence Minister, Linda Reynolds. The AFP did not inform Minister Dutton at that time.  Indeed, according to Dutton, the AFP did not inform him of this “politically sensitive” incident, despite being required to do so by their guidelines, for another two years. 

One might be forgiven for risking the observation that “politically sensitive” and “politically embarrassing” might be interchangeable concepts in this instance. 

Amazingly, Dutton also failed to inform the Prime Minister that the excrement was about to hit the ceiling fan, not alerting his office until 24 hours later. The PMO didn’t like to disturb Morrison over the weekend, we know weekends are sacred to him, so they didn’t inform their boss until Monday. 

Dutton then went on to describe the rape allegations as a “he said, she said” affair. 

Some reasons why this gratuitous comment from the Minister appears to be an attempt to influence both the AFP and the public:  

  1. The AFP, who is investigating this alleged crime, is answerable to Peter Dutton. Their Minister has just signalled through the media that he considers the alleged crime to be not crime at all, but a “he said, she said” affair. In other words, Dutton is telling the AFP how to frame and deal with this alleged crime. 
  2. “He said, she said” is one of the most invalidating dismissals possible of allegations of rape and sexual assault. It implies, as it is intended to, the unworthiness of a woman’s word and description of her experience. “He said, she said” intentionally minimises the experience of rape and sexual assault, and explicitly favours the narrative of the alleged perpetrator. It is appalling that a former police officer, who worked with victims, would hold and voice this opinion. 
  3. The AFP has not yet questioned the alleged perpetrator. Nobody knows what “he said” because he hasn’t said it yet. Unless of course Minister Dutton has had occasion to speak with the alleged perpetrator and knows his side of the story. 
  4. Dutton is also, despicably, dog whistling to the demographic that is his base & the base of the Liberal Party more generally, that women lie about being raped. It’s a “he said, she said” affair, and nobody should take it anymore seriously than that. You’re only actually raped if you’re killed as well. 
  5. A woman cannot consent to sex if she is falling down drunk, as Ms Higgins claims she was, and as, apparently, both CCTV footage will confirm and the security guards involved will verify. In his “he said, she said” attempt to control the narrative, because that is exactly what he is trying to do by using this phrase, Dutton is attempting to subvert the power of this evidence, prior to the AFP investigation. 

The infamous Steve Bannon, among other things a former advisor to former US President Donald Trump, liked to talk about “flooding the zone with shit.” This is the strategy of saturating the media with disinformation and misinformation, in order to bamboozle both media and the public, to the extent that nobody knows anymore what is real and what is fake.   

Make no mistake the Morrison government has adopted this tactic in the Brittany Higgins situation. They are flooding our zone with shit, attempting to confuse and exhaust and gaslight, with the ultimate goal of controlling a complex narrative about power, women, sexual assault, and cover ups. 

If you’re a woman in Parliament House, nobody hears you scream

24 Feb

Over the last few days, no less than five federal government ministers have publicly stated their support for Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s claims that he knew nothing about the 2019 alleged rape committed just metres from his office and reported by former media staffer Brittany Higgins, until February 2021.

Mr Morrison also claims his staff in the Prime Minister’s Office were unaware of the alleged crime.

The precariousness nature of Mr Morrison’s claims is addressed in this piece written by me for Independent Australia. Former Prime Ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd have stated their incredulity that such a serious incident could take place in Parliament House without the Prime Minister’s Office being made aware of it immediately. 

The Ministers who have supported Morrison’s claims to ignorance are:

Lynda Reynolds, Minister for Defence.

Marise Payne, Minister for Women.

Anne Ruston, Minister for Families and Social Services

Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment, Skills Small and Family Business

Peter Dutton, Minister for Home Affairs

President of the Senate, Scott Ryan, has admitted being told of a “serious incident” in 2019, and claims he made no further inquiries as to what that incident was. 

The Speaker of the House, Tony Smith, has admitted to being told of a “serious incident” in 2019, and claims he made no further inquiries as to what that incident was. 

All the above are conspiring to conceal the full circumstances of a serious crime committed in their workplace. 

This week, former Liberal Staffer Chelsea Potter claimed she was sexually assaulted when working in the office of Senator Simon Birmingham, Minister for Finance. Birmingham refused to assist her. 

Also this week, Ruby O’Rourke claimed that in 2016 she was “continually assaulted by a well-know politician.” Ms O’Rourke says she has named Greg Hunt, Minister for Health and Aged Care, because he knows. 

In November 2020, Four Corners aired a program titled Inside the Canberra Bubble. The Morrison government went to great lengths to try to prevent the program going to air, and then threatened the ABC to the extent that the broadcaster’s Chair, Ita Buttrose, publicly defended the program.

Alan Tudge, Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure, who campaigned on family values, was revealed to have had an extra marital affair with staffer, Rachelle Miller, who has now lodged formal complaints of bullying against him, and against Michaelia Cash.

Attorney-General Christian Porter was alleged in the program to have a history of sleazy sexist behaviourtowards women. Porter immediately announced he was taking legal action against Four Corners. However, we have heard nothing further about any such action. 

The number of Morrison’s ministers involved in allegations of sexual harassment and the concealment of sexual violence against women in their workplace is astounding.

The message to women working in Parliament House is clear. No minister will support you. 

At time of writing Linda Reynolds, who was due to appear at the National Press Club today, has been admitted to hospital. Reynolds was expected to come under intense scrutiny at the Press Club today over her management of the Higgins rape allegations. 

The alleged rapist is also in hospital 

“Don’t tell me her name…”

21 Feb

On Friday, a second woman alleged she had been raped by the same assailant who allegedly raped media advisor Brittany Higgins in then defence industry minister Linda Reynolds’ office in March 2019, shortly before the May election.

Ms Reynolds was promoted to defence minister in the returned LNP government. 

The second victim/survivor was attacked in 2020 and understandably feels that had the first alleged crime been better handled, the man would not have been free to rape her, and any other women who might not have come forward. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s reaction to news of this second alleged rape was to declare himself “sickened.” He also said this: 

“I’m very upset about those circumstances and particularly for the young woman who I don’t know who that is, and nor do I need to know who that is, that is a very distressing event.”

Summary:

Journalist: A second woman has been raped. Prime Minister: I don’t need to know who that is.

Imagine for one moment the tremendous privilege Mr Morrison enjoys that allows him to choose not to know.

By any measure this is a bizarre reaction to such news, and one wonders why the Prime Minister felt compelled to let everyone know that he doesn’t know the name of the second victim, and, even more oddly, that he does not need to know.

Our names are a signifier of our humanity. This is why oppressors use numbers, not names, a practice Morrison is more than familiar with after his term as immigration minister. A refusal to know someone’s name is an act of hostility. It says: you are irrelevant to me. It says: you aren’t fully human to me. 

When someone is not seen as fully human, anything can be done to them. 

Anyone who refuses to know our name should be treated with the utmost caution. 

Perhaps Morrison is broadcasting a warning. Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know. Keep it as far away from me as possible. Give me plausible deniability in case I need it. What I don’t know can’t hurt me. 

The Prime Minister wants to efface the second survivor, to make her appear insignificant, the crime against her inconsequential. He wants to delegitimise her suffering. He wants to entrench the power imbalance that gifts him the privilege to decide he doesn’t want to know.

Victims are the problem for Mr Morrison. They’re the ones causing him trouble, in his world-view.

Refusing to use someone’s name is a classic dehumanising tactic. Raping a woman is also dehumanizing her. You can’t dehumanise someone just a little bit. Morrison’s dehumanisation of the second woman is no different from the rapist’s. It is expressed in a different way. Dehumanising is an all or nothing process. There’s no such thing as a sliding scale. 

Refusing to use someone’s name is also an expression of profound contempt, and a signifier of the disgust in which the deliberately un-named is held. It’s also a decision to deny publicity and notoriety. The decision not to name terrorists is an example of this.

There are no good reasons for deciding, “I don’t need to know their name.” 

What has become sickeningly obvious since Ms Higgins went public just a few short days ago is that politics trumps everything, and politics especially trumps rape. It hasn’t been the crime that is the focus, not for politicians and their advisors and with a very few exceptions, not for the media. It’s been the politics. Morrison, in his declaration, did not hesitate to very publicly put his needs before those of the victim. He needs to keep his distance, it’s politics. He’s willing to dehumanise her in order to achieve his goal. 

Rape is a crime. Rape is a serious crime. It isn’t a sex scandal. It isn’t consensual bonking in Parliament House. It isn’t a “serious incident.” It is a crime. 

Scott Morrison doesn’t want to know the name of the latest victim of this crime. Don’t ask, don’t tell. It’s the vibe. 

Survivors are not responsible for changing a toxic culture

18 Feb
Artist: Quint Buchholz

by Jennifer Wilson

On February 15, journalist Samantha Maiden broke the story of the alleged rape of former media advisor Brittany Higgins, by a senior staffer. The assault allegedly took place on the couch in Defence Minister Linda Reynold’s ministerial office in March 2019, and the alleged perpetrator worked for Ms Reynolds, as did Ms Higgins.  

The Guardian subsequently published a piece by Katharine Murphy titled “Achieving permanent culture change in politics requires women to speak up.”

Murphy’s argument is that the “only way” to achieve permanent cultural change in a misogynistic Parliament is for women to speak up “when bad things happen,” that is, bad things such as sexual harassment and sexual assault. She writes: 

The only way to achieve permanent cultural change in the self-regulated fiefdom that is the political office – a unique professional environment where everything revolves around the needs and the whims of the principal – is for women to speak up when bad things happen.

To find the self-confidence to value their own stories, even if the system doesn’t, and tell them.

For a start, “bad things” don’t just “happen.”  They require human agency, in this instance a man who allegedly raped Ms Higgins. If ever there is an occasion in which to be cautious about language, this is it. 

Secondly, one of the first things a woman loses when she is sexually assaulted is her “self-confidence” and the ability to value herself and her story. Most information on post-traumatic stress due to sexual assault will note this reaction in many victims. 

The system is also responsible for these losses, given the manner in which it regards and treats female victims of male sexual aggression.

As we know, Ms Higgins did “speak up,” to no less an authority than her boss Linda Reynolds. Subsequent events resulted in Ms Higgins believing that if she pursued the alleged rape complaint with the Australian Federal Police, she would lose her job She did not speak up again until two years later, after realising that her struggle to continue working at the site of her trauma was proving untenable for her. 

Women have, in fact, been speaking up about sexual assault for more than fifty years

It hasn’t done us a lot of good in terms of prevention. There is little reason to believe that speaking up in politics would be any different from speaking up in any other sphere, in terms of changing a hegemonic culture that is fundamentally hostile to women.

Nonetheless women have done our best. We have spoken up in vast numbers. We have written books. We have made documentaries. We have made movies. We have, in all the ways available to us, spoken up about our rapes, and the sexual violences we have endured.

Nothing we’ve said, none of the tears we’ve cried, none of the rage we’ve expressed, none of our grief for our lost lives, our lost opportunities, our lost childhoods, our broken, savaged, bleeding, violated bodies, none of this speaking up has stopped men raping us, or come anywhere near achieving that goal. 

How this monstrous reality escapes the notice of any commentator on the matter is baffling. 

Survivors are not an homogenous group. Speaking up may be beneficial for some of us at some time, and nobody should be prevented from finding her voice and using it. However, prescribing speaking up as a responsibility survivors should shoulder in order to change the culture that has so dismally failed to protect us from male savagery, is a bridge too far. Society clearly cannot or will not protect us. We are injured both within and by its systems. 

We are then called upon to disclose our trauma in order to change the toxic culture. Obediently, we bare our ravaged hearts and souls and we do it over and over and over and over again. We are praised as courageous, admired as brave. Revisiting our trauma is lauded as a signifier of our strength of character and our resilience and our ability to feel concern for the world, despite our suffering. 

And yet, nothing changes. We are still raped. We are still murdered, one of us each week

Speaking up hasn’t stopped any of it, though most of us that do speak up hope with all our hearts we might help save somebody else from suffering as we have, or that our story might let another woman know she is not alone. 

Instead, what has happened over time is that an expectation has developed, as expressed in Murphy’s piece, that we should use our trauma if we are to challenge and change a hostile and dangerous culture.  What is amiss here is the existence of the expectation. 

The implicit and at times explicit demand that women speak up has created a sub genre of tragedy porn, in which those of us who have survived are asked to earn our survival by disclosing our trauma, ostensibly to bring about a cultural change for the greater good. That change does not happen. Regardless of this lack of outcome we are still asked to do the impossible, and we are asked to do it by making our most private and damaged selves available for public consumption. 

As Ms Higgins observed, she shouldn’t have had to go public for her rape to be addressed. 

In reality, the only way to effect cultural change is for men to stop inflicting sexual violence on us. It is that simple and it’s that difficult. How much easier to tell women it’s our job! 

It is not the job of a survivor to work out how men can be persuaded to control their violence against us.

Survivors owe nothing and to nobody, and we especially owe nothing to the culture that did not protect us in the first place. If we do speak up, it must be only because we want to and when we want to, and not because it’s our job to effect change. 

It is an indicator of the spiritual, psychological and emotional brutality visited unremarked upon women in this culture, that after enduring what is unspeakable, we are called upon to find a way to speak it, in order to change men. 

%d bloggers like this: