Ex-Liberal Party staffer accused of fourth assault

Morrison said Canberra will expand an existing fund that offers film and television producers a...
Three women have come forward after Brittany Higgins alleged she was raped by the man, who was a fellow ministerial adviser, in 2019. Photo: Getty Images
The Morrison government is facing intense scrutiny over how it handles sexual assault complaints after a fourth woman came forward alleging misconduct.

A former Liberal Party staffer has been accused of sexual assault by a fourth woman as questions mount over the Morrison government's handling of the first rape allegation.

Three women have come forward after Brittany Higgins alleged she was raped by the man, who was a fellow ministerial adviser, in 2019.

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds is under intense pressure over how she handled the allegation, made when Ms Higgins was employed by her.

In Question Time, Senator Reynolds refused to answer a series of questions about a meeting with a federal police assistant commissioner about the alleged rape.

"What we discussed in those meetings is not my story to tell," the minister said.

"I have always, and I continue, to respect her privacy and her story."

Ms Higgins said she was disgusted with that excuse.

Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Getty Images
Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Getty Images
"My privacy has been breached at every turn in this process,'" she told News Corp.

"I don't think she's ever respected my privacy, so her sudden concern for it now, I find patently false."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is maintaining his staff didn't tell him about the allegation until days after media raised questions with his office.

"I look forward to the police progressing this matter and any other matters that may be related to this in terms of any other alleged offences, in relation to this individual," he told parliament.

Greens leader Adam Bandt asked if the man accused of the assaults held a lobbyist pass or attended parliament after being sacked as a ministerial adviser.

The prime minister said records would be checked.

Labor's upper house leader Penny Wong lashed the government's response to Ms Higgins.

"She wasn't being treated as a human being. She wasn't being treated as a rape survivor and she wasn't being treated as a victim of a grave crime," she told parliament.

"She was being treated as a political problem."

Senator Wong said Mr Morrison's words rung hollow while there was no culture of accountability.

"We know that at best, Mr Morrison runs a government where the culture is don't ask, don't tell when it comes to serious criminal allegation," she said.

"At worst, Mr Morrison himself is part of the cover-up."

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