‘Sex act on female MP’s desk’: Liberal staffer sacked over lewd video

By Katina Curtis and Angus Livingston

Updated March 22, 2021 — 8.14pmfirst published at 5.17pm

A federal Liberal staffer sacked over a video of himself performing a lewd act on the desk of a female MP in Parliament House also took another video of himself performing a sex act on someone else in what he said was his boss’ office.

Composite image of Scott Morrison and Brittany Higgins

In a video seen by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, the man performs a sex act on another man in an office. The green carpet visible behind him in the video matches the carpet from the floor of the House of Representatives’ wing of Parliament.

The man in the video later claimed it was filmed in his boss’ office.

Ten News on Monday night reported a group of Coalition government staffers exchanged pictures and videos among themselves of sex acts performed in Parliament House.

Government sources confirmed the man in the Ten News video was sacked on Monday night after the report went public. They did not confirm the man’s name. Ten News showed heavily pixelated images of the man masturbating over the desk of an unnamed female MP. The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have seen an unpixelated image from the video showing his face.

Signs in the crowd at the March 4 Justice at Parliament House in Canberra on March 15.

This masthead contacted the man on Monday night but he did not respond. The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have chosen not to name him because his employer has not confirmed his identity.

Ten News also reported that sex workers had been brought into Parliament House to visit MPs.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the reports and videos were “disgusting and sickening”. He urged anyone with further information to come forward, noting the man at the centre of the allegations had been identified and sacked.

“It’s not good enough, and is totally unacceptable. The people who come to work in this building are better than this,” Mr Morrison said in a statement on Monday night.Advertisement

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AFP commissioner Reece Kershaw and Philip Gaetjens, secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

PM denies misleading Parliament after Brittany Higgins inquiry paused over AFP concerns

“The actions of these individuals show a staggering disrespect for the people who work in Parliament, and for the ideals the Parliament is supposed to represent.

“I will have more to say on this and the cultural issues we confront as a Parliament in coming days.”

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, whose department is the technical employer of parliamentary staffers, said he was disgusted and appalled by the allegations, which showed “complete disregard” for what Australia’s parliamentary democracy stood for.

“It also demonstrates an enormous disrespect for a member or senator in relation to those staff, those offices. It equally shows a complete contempt, frankly, for the Australian taxpayers who paid the wages of such staff,” he told a Senate committee hearing.

“In my opinion, any individuals who engaged in such activity ought to prepare to pack their bags and leave the building for good. They should also think intently about apologising not just to their employing member or senator but to the Parliament and to the Australian public.”

A spokeswoman for Speaker Tony Smith and Senate President Scott Ryan said the presiding officers were not aware of the incidents or allegations until they aired on Monday evening.

“MPs and Senators employ their own staff. If the presiding officers are informed of the identities of the staff members, they are of course prepared to take action within the context of their responsibilities,” the spokeswoman said.

Liberal MP Dave Sharma said he was disgusted and horrified by the reports. He said he discussed the matter with his staff and was confident none were involved.

“The people responsible should self-identify and resign immediately,” he said. “To denigrate and disrespect Parliament in this way, and female MPs, is beyond reproach and condemnation.”

RELATED ARTICLE

Brittany Higgins speaks at the March 4 Justice protest in Canberra.
Brittany Higgins

The system is broken and I am speaking out to help fix it

The Coalition government has been facing a series of allegations about sexual assault and harassment of women, with former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins sparking the conversation when she went public about her alleged rape by a colleague in Parliament House. ACT Policing is now investigating the rape, which allegedly occurred after-hours in the office of Defence Minister Linda Reynolds just weeks before the 2019 federal election.

Attorney-General Christian Porter is also on mental health leave after vehemently denying claims he raped a 16-year-old girl when he was 17, at a debating competition in Sydney.

Tens of thousands of people marched in cities across the country on March 15 to express their anger about the treatment of women in politics and general society, and to demand change. More than 5000 people turned up to the March 4 Justice event outside Parliament House.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has appointed sex discrimination commissioner Kate Jenkins to run an investigation into the workplace culture at Parliament House and responses to sexual harassment and assault.

National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line: 1800 737 732. Crisis support can be found at Lifeline: (13 11 14 and lifeline.org.au), the Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467 and suicidecallbackservice.org.au) and beyondblue (1300 22 4636 and beyondblue.org.au).

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Parliament House security guard Nikola Anderson describes finding Brittany Higgins on night of alleged rape in minister’s office

Four Corners / 

By Sean Nicholls, Sashka Koloff, Naomi Selvaratnam, and Ali RussellPosted Yesterday at 4:01pm, updated Yesterday at 9:09pm

Play Video. Duration: 5 minutes 12 seconds
Parliament House security guard Nikola Anderson describes finding Brittany Higgins on night of alleged rape in minister’s office

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A Parliament House security guard on duty the night of the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins has spoken out for the first time to reveal details of what happened.

Key points:

  • A Parliament House security guard has described finding Brittany Higgins the night she was allegedly raped.
  • The guard has questioned Scott Morrison’s claims there was a security breach at Parliament House.
  • She says security followed protocol on the night of the alleged rape.

Nikola Anderson, who has worked as a Parliament House security guard for 12 years, told Four Corners how she found Ms Higgins in the office of then-defence industry minister Linda Reynolds after the alleged rape.

Ms Anderson has also questioned the Prime Minister’s claim that there was a security breach at Parliament House, saying she wants to make it clear that the security guards on duty the night of the incident followed the correct procedures.

Ms Higgins, a former Liberal staffer, alleges she was raped by a colleague in Ms Reynolds’s office in 2019 after a night out.

The man at the centre of the allegations has not been charged with any crime.

Ms Anderson, a mother of three from suburban Canberra, is one of Parliament’s more experienced guards.

On March 22, 2019, her 11:00pm to 7:00am shift started as usual.

“I was the ministerial patrol; basically, my duties for the night were to patrol the ministerial wing, make sure that the doors were all locked and that there was no one in the suites, so that I could report back to the control room,” she said in an exclusive interview with Four Corners.

“Just do a normal, everyday check. Make sure fire doors and things are closed and make sure everything’s secure.”

Woman sitting at a desk, smiles for the camera.
Brittany Higgins says her alleged rape was treated as a ‘political problem’.(Supplied)

‘It took us by surprise’

A few minutes away in the Canberra CBD, Ms Higgins and a colleague were leaving a nightclub, 88mph, after a night of drinking.

The colleague had offered Ms Higgins a lift home in a taxi, which she had accepted. He said he first needed to swing by Parliament House to pick something up.

CCTV from the night shows the pair arrived at Parliament House’s ministerial entrance at 1:50am.

Ms Anderson greeted them at the security desk.

“It kind of took us by surprise because they walked in at two in the morning, and it was a Friday night … well, Friday night, Saturday morning,” Ms Anderson told Four Corners.

“They basically walked in together. She was wearing a white cocktail dress. I’d noticed that she’d had grass stains down one side of her body on this pure white dress. He seemed to be quite dressed up as well. And it was just strange to us that they were there at that time of night together, wanting to go into the office.

“My colleague had made a comment and said, ‘Jeez guys, couldn’t this have waited until Monday?’ And the man had replied, ‘Oh, not really.'”https://www.youtube.com/embed/WxbH4bK5vhg?feature=oembedYOUTUBEThe Brittany Higgins story: an allegation of sexual assault in Australian politics | Four Corners

Security says Higgins was visibly intoxicated

Ms Anderson began the security screening process. She said neither had their parliamentary passes, so she asked for ID and she looked them up on the internal system, which showed they were active pass holders and worked in the office of Senator Reynolds.

When Ms Higgins walked through the metal detector, her shoes set it off and she was told to remove them and try again.

“As she’s gone to put her shoes back on after she’s walked through and cleared herself, she couldn’t get them on,” Ms Anderson recalled.

“That’s how I realised how intoxicated this girl was because she just could not get her shoes on for the life of her.”

A woman stands in front of Parliament House smiling
Brittany Higgins was working in the office of then-Defence Industry Minister Linda Reynolds.(Supplied)

Ms Anderson issued the pair with what are known as Positively Identified Passes, or green passes, which allow holders unrestricted, unescorted access.

She took the pair up to Senator Reynolds’s office, unlocked the door and let them in before heading back downstairs to continue her shift.

Guard spoke of something ‘strange’

Once inside the office, Ms Higgins has said the male colleague began looking for the item he needed to retrieve and she fell asleep on a couch.

She later told news.com.au and Network Ten’s The Project that she woke to find the man on top of her.

“I woke up mid-rape, essentially,” she said.

“Um, I, I don’t know why I knew he was almost finished, but I’d, I’d felt like it had been going on for a while or that he was almost done. He was sweaty. I couldn’t get him off of me. At this point I started crying.”

CCTV shows the man left Parliament House at 2:35am, less than an hour after he had arrived with Ms Higgins.

Bollards in front of Parliament House in Canberra.
Security guards carried out welfare checks on Ms Higgins in the early morning.(Flickr: MomentsForZen
)

At 3:00am, Nikola Anderson went to relieve a colleague at the ministerial entrance who was due for a meal break. He told her he thought the man had been acting strangely when he left.

“My colleague had tried to make conversation with him and he seemed to be in a hurry,” she said.

“That was when my colleague and I decided that we needed to push it up the chain and notify our night shift team leader that there might’ve been something a bit strange going on.”

An early morning welfare check

Ms Anderson’s team leader asked her to do a welfare check on Ms Higgins after her colleague returned from his break.

At 4:20am, she headed to Senator Reynolds’ office.

“As I approached Minister Reynold’s office, I opened the door and announced myself. So, yelling, ‘Security. Hello. Security, security’ … just so that she was aware that I was there,” she said.

“I got no response whatsoever.”

Ms Anderson pushed open the office door.

“As I’ve opened the door, I’ve noticed that the female was lying on her back, completely naked, on the lounge that was adjacent to the door, for which I’ve gone, ‘Oh,'” she told Four Corners.

“The sound of the door or the breeze of the door opening has then made the female open her eyes, look at me. And then she’s rolled over onto her side.

“So, therefore, my [take] on it was she’s conscious. She’s breathing. She’s doesn’t look like she’s in distress. She’s just sleeping off her night. And with that, I shut the door, and I exited the room.”

“I made sure her dignity was intact by shutting this door… I was trying to do the right thing by keeping her dignity intact.”

Sexual assault support services:

  • 1800 RESPECT: 1800 737 732
  • Lifeline: 131 114
  • Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636

Ms Anderson said her initial reaction to finding Ms Higgins was one of shock.

“Oh God. And I mean, oh God, because I’ve never come across anything like that,” she said.

By the time Ms Anderson finished her shift at 7:00am, Ms Higgins had still not emerged from the office. Security then sent a second female guard to do another welfare check.

Four Corners has confirmed this guard called out to Ms Higgins through the closed door.

Ms Higgins left Parliament House at 10:00am and took an Uber to her Canberra home.

Claims of a security breach at Parliament House

On the Monday, Ms Higgins and the man she accuses of raping her returned to work. The next day the man was called into the office of their chief of staff, Fiona Brown.

According to Ms Higgins, when he left the office his head was bowed and he immediately cleared out his desk and left.

In February this year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the man’s employment was terminated over a “security breach”, but neither Mr Morrison nor anyone else in the government has specified the nature of that breach.

A close up of Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Scott Morrison has said the man at the centre of the allegations had his employment terminated over a security breach.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

Ms Anderson questions the claim.

“What was the security breach? Because the night that we were on shift, there was no security breach,” she said.

“Their pass enables them to be where they want to be within Parliament House. If they hadn’t worked for that minister, that would be a different story because we wouldn’t have allowed them entry because it’s not their office, they have no business being in there.

“But because these two people worked for Minister Reynolds, they were allowed access in there, which is why we granted it.”

Ms Anderson suggested Mr Morrison had been given “false information”.

Four Corners asked Mr Morrison’s office to explain the nature of the security breach, but the office declined on the basis that the matter was being investigated by police.

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ACT Police contacted Ms Anderson a week ago, nearly two years after the alleged rape. She intends to give them a statement.

She said she decided to speak to Four Corners because of the fear that she could be “scapegoated” and lose her job if there is criticism of how security handled the matter.

“Nobody really knows the truth except me,” she said.

“So if I can piece together the bits that she might be lacking, why not? And then that also makes me look better in terms of the public eye, because security did actually do something.

“Security did do what they could, and would have done more had it have been required.”Watch the full investigation on ABC iview.Posted Yesterday, updated YesterdayShare

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Here’s what Brittany Higgins had to say when she spoke at the women’s march

Man accused of raping Brittany Higgins allegedly ‘demanded’ sex from former housemate

ABC Gold Coast / 

By Melissa MaykinPosted Yesterday at 10:53am, updated Yesterday at 12:42pm

A woman with long brown hair sitting on a stone wall with houses and tall buildings in the background on a sunny day.
Kriti Gupta, 24, says she felt “unsafe” while renting a room off the man accused of raping Brittany Higgins.(Supplied: Kriti Gupta)

A former housemate of the man accused of raping former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins has told police he made unwanted sexual advances towards her during the time they lived together.

Key points:

  • Kriti Gupta alleges the man made unwanted sexual advances towards her when they were housemates
  • Ms Gupta has given a statement to NSW police and the Australian Federal Police
  • Five women have come forward with allegations against the man

Kriti Gupta has given a statement to New South Wales police alleging the incidents occurred when they were living as housemates in an apartment in Sydney.

She has since given a statement to the Australian Federal Police, who are investigating the Higgins case.

Ms Gupta, 24, told the ABC she felt “unsafe” while renting a room off the man from October 2019 to February 2020.

She is the fifth woman to raise allegations against the man, who is accused of raping former colleague Ms Higgins in the office of then Defence Industry Minister Linda Reynolds after drinks in March, 2019.

A second woman alleges he raped her last year after they had dinner and drinks, while a third woman alleges he sexually assaulted her after a night of drinking in 2016.

A fourth woman told the ABC the man “stroked her thigh” under the table at a Canberra bar in 2017.

‘He was trying to woo me’

Ms Gupta and her ex-housemate met in 2015 at a Model United Nations conference at Sydney University when she was a 19-year-old university student.

“I formed a friendship with this person. We spoke a few times over the years, we saw each other at conferences, we would hang out and we became friends, as you would in these types of situations,” she said.

In 2019, Ms Gupta said she sought advice from the man about finding work in Sydney and was encouraged to rent a room in an apartment he was leasing.

A young woman with long brown hair sits in a courtyard looking down wearing a white blazer and white top
Brittany Higgins went public with the allegation she was raped by a colleague in a minister’s office nearly a week ago.(Supplied: Brittany Higgins/ABC News: Emma Machan)

She said she was impressed by his success in the same field she worked in — public relations.

“He had a good job in parliament previously, so I was seeking his advice because he gave off this vibe of being powerful,” she said.

“He said, ‘You can stay with me while you’re sorting everything out’ and I thought, ‘That probably works quite well’.”

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Ms Gupta said she told the man she was not interested in a romantic relationship, before relocating from Brisbane to Sydney.

“I think he did believe there was a possibility before I moved, because he would say, ‘We can go out, have a nice fancy dinner’.

“He was trying to woo me in that sense, but I shut it down by saying, ‘I’m not interested in that, I have a boyfriend’, which at the time I did,” she said.

‘I felt unsafe’

Over a five-month period, Ms Gupta told police the man, who she considered a friend, touched her in ways that made her feel unsafe.

“He would have a glass of wine in his left hand, and he’d reach his right hand over and rub my knee,” she said.

“It would send lightbulbs off and I would be like, ‘I need to get out of this situation, but I can’t leave because I have nowhere to go,’ so I would say, ‘OK, I’m tired, I’m going to bed’.”

Sexual assault support services:

Ms Gupta said while she considered the man to be a friend, the alleged behaviour made her feel uncomfortable.

“I did not feel comfortable in my own home,” she said.

“I felt there were moments and times when I lived with this person that I was unsafe.

“I am not saying everything was bad. We had dinner together, we were friends. It’s common for people to be friends with people who treat them unfairly.

“I excused it.”

‘We have to have sex’

Ms Gupta alleges the man “barged” into her room at 3am in December 2019 and “demanded” she have sex with him.

“I had to push him out of the room, close the door, put stuff up against the door so he could not get in,” she said.

“So that was particularly confronting I would say.”

Ms Gupta told police about a similar incident that occurred on a separate night.

“It wasn’t as much, ‘We are going to have sex’, but he barged into my room and would say, ‘Let’s go snort cocaine’ and stuff like that and I would say no.”

She told police the man made unwanted advances when he drank, which was why she did not drink more than one or two drinks in his presence.

“If we ever drank together, I would only ever have one glass of wine, one or two, so I was still in control,” she said.

Change the conversation

Ms Gupta said she was prompted to go public with the allegations after hearing other women had come forward.

“The conversation needs to change, and it can’t just be, ‘Oh, he didn’t rape her, assault or harass her’, because those micro-aggressions towards women still count,” she said.

“Just because someone is your friend and is doing this to you, it doesn’t make it OK.

“Just because it isn’t illegal, doesn’t mean it isn’t wrong.”

Posted Yesterday, updated Yesterday

AFP commissioner says parliament probe into Brittany Higgins’ alleged rape could be suspended

The political probe into who knew what and when about the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins has been sensationally suspended.

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PM&C Secretary Phil Gaetjens has sparked uproar in Senate estimates with these comments.

The political probe into who knew what and when about the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins has been sensationally suspended on the grounds it could intefere with the police investigation.

Just weeks after the Prime Minister ordered an inquiry into who knew in his office about the claims, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Phil Gaetjens has revealed he secretly paused the probe on March 9.

But despite questions in Parliament about the probe last week, the Prime Minister never revealed the inquiry had been paused or delayed on the basis of AFP advice.

“On the 9th of March, because of the Commissioner’s advice I emailed the Prime Minister’s office staff to tell them I would not be completing the documentation,’’ Mr Gaetjens told the Senate.

“I believe from what he has said…that I am at risk of compromising an investigation and I am not willing to do that. This is for the benefit of Ms Higgins.”

The claim it was for Ms Higgins prompted fury from Labor senators.

“Do not use her interests as a shield, Mr Gaetjens,’’ Labor Senator Penny Wong said.

His evidence has also raised immediate serious questions over the Prime Minister’s statement to Parliament that he was not aware of where the investigation was at and this was a matter for Mr Gaetjens.

Mr Gaetjens refused to answer any questions about who – if anyone – he interviewed before he suspended his investigation.

Earlier today, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw warned the Prime Minister’s probe into who knew what and when could interfere with the police investigation raising the prospect the political probe could be suspended.

In bombshell evidence to the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Commissioner Kershaw said he was concerned that any political investigation could contaminate the police inquiry.

His warning could also provide political cover for the Prime Minister to suspend the probe, prompting Labor to warn of “a cover up” in Senate estimates.

The Prime Minister had asked Mr Gaetjens, his former chief of staff, to investigate who in the prime minister’s office knew about the allegation and when to ascertain whether the PM’s claim that nobody in his office knew about the rape claim was accurate.

RELATED: AFP boss’ warning to PM after Brittany Higgins allegation

Mr Kershaw warned anyone linked to the sexual assault investigation that the criminal investigation must run its course.

“I also spoke with Mr (Phil) Gaetjens, secretary of the department of prime minister and cabinet, that I’m particularly concerned about the intersection of his inquiry with our investigation,” Commissioner Kershaw told a Senate estimates

“I will be limited in what I can say to ensure the active criminal investigation is not compromised,” he said.

“It is being treated with due care and attention including with oversight by our sensitive investigations oversight board.

“It’s not helpful at all and it’s also quite a risky undertaking,’’ he said about the parliament probe.

“For example, even matters reported in the media can affect a fair outcome.”

Brittany Higgins speaks at the Canberra Womens March 4 Justice.

Brittany Higgins speaks at the Canberra Womens March 4 Justice.Source:Getty Images

Ms Higgins has alleged she was raped in March 2019, (2 Years ago now) by another Liberal staffer and that in the aftermath several senior advisers in the Prime Minister’s office and scores of people in ministerial offices, the Australian Federal Police and parliamentary services and security were aware of “an incident” but failed to provide her adequate support.

News.com.au has previously reported that despite the PM’s claim nobody knew, a senior staffer had discussions with a friend of Ms Higgins and that he texted her in 2019 to confirm the discussion had taken place.

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ former chief of staff also now works for Mr Morrison and his chief of staff John Kunkel and another man were involved in handling the aftermath of ‘an incident’ in the office but both insisted they never knew it involved an alleged rape.

The question of who knew what and when will be probed tonight by the ABC’s Four Corners in a special investigation into whether the PM’s claim that his office didn’t know about the alleged rape is accurate.

Labor Senator Kristina Keneally asked Commissioner Kershaw whether or not his letter to the Prime Minister was establishing a de facto mandatory reporting policy for rape and he said this was definitely not his intent.

“It’s not a mandatory report. It may be that the victim does not want any action taken criminally. It is a victim centred approach,’’ he said.

President of the Senate Chamber Scott Ryan clashed with Labor’s Penny Wong.

President of the Senate Chamber Scott Ryan clashed with Labor’s Penny Wong.Source:News Corp Australia

But Senate President Scott Ryan was then involved in fiery clashes over his refusal to answer questions on the ground that it may interfere with the police probe.

“I put it to you that is completely without precedent,’’ Labor’s Senate leader Penny Wong said.

But Senator Ryan continued to refuse to answer any questions indicating he would take the questions on notice and seek advice from police and the Presiding officers.

“I do not want to inadvertently overstep the mark and complicate an investigation by answering questions in a public forum,’’ Senator Scott Ryan said.

“I will take advice and come back,’’ Senator Ryan said.

Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching said it was clear enough what his refusal to reveal how Parliament handled the alleged rape in the aftermath looked like to voters.

“You know how it looks? It looks like there’s a cover up going on,’’ she said.