Why NSW Police never interviewed Christian Porter


NSW Police have revealed why they never interviewed former Attorney-General Christian Porter over a 1988 rape allegation and confirmed the alleged victim tried to deliver a statement via Skype during the coronavirus lockdowns.

Outlining new information about how the case was handled, police have confirmed the woman who accused Mr Porter of rape asked to deliver her witness statement via Skype during the COVID-19 pandemic – a request the NSW Police resisted and her friends and family were never interviewed after her death.

The woman ultimately decided to withdraw her complaint after COVID delayed the meeting with detectives and died by suicide at home just 24 hours later.

Mr Porter strenuously denies the allegations that relate to a 1988 debating conference in Sydney. He has launched defamation action against the ABC over the reporting of an anonymous letter sent to the Prime Minister setting out allegations against a member of Cabinet.

He subsequently self-identified himself as the target of the allegations.

RELATED: NSW Police never got letter outlining allegations

It was the woman’s decision to withdraw the complaint that resulted in police not interviewing Mr Porter after her death, according to NSW Police.

“It is current standard practice that once a signed victim statement has been obtained from a victim and further corroborative enquiries are made, the formal allegation can and should be put to the person of interest as per procedural fairness principles for investigators,” NSW Police said.

“On June 23, 2020 the (alleged) victim clearly communicated to investigators that she no longer felt able to proceed with the report. The NSWPF did not have a signed statement from the (alleged) victim, hence no formal allegation to put to the person of interest. In keeping with the (alleged) victim’s wishes no further investigation took place and the person of interest was not interviewed.”

NSW Police established Strike Force Wyndarra in February 2020 after receiving information from Mr Porter’s accuser.

Detectives from Strike Force Wyndarra were due to travel to Adelaide to take the woman’s formal statement in March 2020 but their trip was postponed after the COVID-19 outbreak.

RELATED: Accuser’s family begs media not to identify daughter

On Wednesday June 24, 2020, the woman’s body was located at a home at Adelaide by South Australia Police. She had committed suicide just hours after telling police she did not want to proceed with a formal complaint.

In answers to questions on notice, NSW Police confirmed the complainant did ask to provide a formal statement over the telephone or via video.

“Yes. On April 1, 2020, the (alleged) victim requested that she commence her statement by way of Skype,” the response states.

“Investigators consulted with the (alleged) victim on April 2, 2020 by way of teleconference. Options were presented to the (alleged) victim in relation to obtaining her statement. A joint decision by all parties was made not to conduct the interview remotely. There were a number of reasons which led to this decision. The (alleged) victim was understanding and supportive of this decision.”

NSW Police also confirmed they made six telephone calls to the woman which were not answered.

RELATED: Porter, Reynolds moved in Cabinet reshuffle

The alleged victim also made two telephone calls to investigators which were not answered. On both occasions the woman’s missed calls were returned within seven minutes and five hours and 26 minutes respectively.

NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge said the responses from NSW Police demanded further explanation.

“These answers raise yet more questions about the response of the NSW Police,” he said.

“When you speak to experienced investigators who have dealt with historical allegations they will tell you it’s not perfect but sometimes it’s the only option to take a statement by phone or video link.

“What is very distressing here is that this was an option that was requested by the complainant and open to police but for whatever reason was taken off the table.”

The answers provided also detail the Australian Federal Police decision to brief the NSW Police on the letter outlining the allegations rather than send it to investigators in full.

The letter requested urgent action be taken by the Prime Minister to investigate the 1988 alleged rape.

RELATED: Details of Porter’s ABC defamation suit

It urged the Prime Minister to set up an independent parliamentary investigation into the matter, similar to that commissioned by the High Court into allegations against former Justice, Dyson Heydon.

“When news of [the complainant’s alleged] rape becomes widely known to the public (as it most likely will), legitimate questions will be asked as to who knew what, when they knew and what they did,” the letter states.

“This is occurring today in relation to Brittany Higgins. The loss of respect for our political institutions will be exacerbated.

“There will be considerable damage to community perceptions of justice … and the parliament when this story becomes public if it is simultaneously revealed that senior people (like yourselves) were aware of the accusation but had done nothing.

“Failing to take parliamentary action because the NSW Police cannot take criminal action would seem like wilful blindness.”

The South Australia Coroner is yet to determine whether to conduct a public inquest into the woman’s death.



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Tracy Grimshaw grills Scott Morrison


Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been grilled about how he could not have known the depth of the issues faced by women during a heated interview with Tracy Grimshaw on A Current Affair.

During the 30-minute sit down aired on Thursday night, the Prime Minister was questioned about the government’s handling of allegations involving former Liberal Staffer Brittany Higgins and historic rape allegations made about Attorney-General Christian Porter, which are strongly denied.

When the PM said he had been working to understand the outrage being felt by women Grimshaw bluntly asked him: “where have you been?”

“If you are saying you have been aware of the enormity of this issue preceding Brittany Higgins coming out a month ago, if you’d been aware of it,” Grimshaw began to say.

“At a different level,” Mr Morrison said.

“This has taken me deeper into this issue than I have appreciated before.”

He then continued: “You have lived with it every day, you have lived with it I’m sure your whole life.”

“But you’re not on an island,” Grimshaw responded.

“Or maybe you’re in a bubble, you must know, you’ve got a wife you love, you’ve got daughters … how did you not know the depth of it?”

Mr Morrison said he, like many men in the country, had a different experience with the issue.

“This is the difficult part of this. You understand it in a way that only you could. I have a different experience to yours as do many men in this country.”

“It was truly shocking that this could take place here (in Parliament House) to a young woman who had worked so hard.

“We look at these things and go ‘how could such acts of (alleged) violence take place?’

“We are now starting to get beyond this issue where we see it most, in the most violent and other most obvious forms.

“I may not have always got it as much as people would like me to, but I assure you, I am doing everything I can to understand it as best I can.”

Ms Higgins claimed she was raped by a colleague in Minister Linda Reynolds office at Parliament House in March, 2019.

The former staffer lodged a formal complaint with the Prime Minister on Thursday, accusing his office of “backgrounding” against her partner.

She raised the claim earlier this month when she addressed protesters outside Parliament House for the March 4 Justice rallies.

Thousands of people across the nation called for action against gendered violence in parliament after Ms Higgins came out about her alleged rape.

“I watched as the Prime Minister of Australia publicly apologised to me through the media, while privately his team actively discredited and undermined my loved ones,” Ms Higgins told the crowd.

The Prime Minister did not attend the historic rally but said he would meet organisers “in private”.

“I treated that protest the same way I have treated other protests and provided respectful opportunities for people to meet and talk seriously about this issue in the office of the Prime Minister,” he told Grimshaw.

He revealed he had not directly been in contact with Ms Higgins since she had spoken out but insisted his public apology was sincere.

Mr Morrison told Grimshaw he would be willing to meet with Ms Higgins but she had not asked to speak with him.

“She hasn’t expressed an interest in doing that with me but she is very welcome to,” he said.

The Prime Minister also said Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ comments calling Ms Higgins “a lying cow” were “disgraceful” and “out of character”.

When asked if Mr Porter and Ms Reynolds would be moved from their portfolios, he said he was “working through those issues now”.

“One is on mental health leave and the other is on physical health leave. Linda in particular, had a very serious coronary condition. She is being seeking help for that for the past month, as you can see in the chamber, that distress she was under.

“There is a further effect on her physical health. We are still talking to her doctors and her and with her permission, we are working through that with Linda now in terms of what duties she can perform.”

Mr Morrison said the Attorney-General and Defence Minister would continue to play a “very important role” in his cabinet but could not say if they would remain in their current roles.

He again defended Mr Porter, and said the police had decided there was no further investigation that would take place into the historical allegations against him.

“What I have done is to respect the rule of law in this country and how people need to be treated under that rule of law,” Mr Morrison said.

“The only system we have when it comes to understanding, and for treating these issues fairly, is to do its job.

“The police have decided that there is no further investigation.”



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Brittany Higgins launches formal complaint with PMO over backgrounding claims


Brittany Higgins has filed a formal complaint with Scott Morrison’s chief of staff over claims his staff spread disparaging information her partner to journalists, which the Prime Minister has refused to confirm.

Ms Higgins, who alleged she was raped in a ministerial office within Parliament House in 2019, has written to the PM’s chief of staff John Kunkel over claims the PMO’s media team ‘backgrounded’ against her partner .

She has lodged a formal complaint over the allegation, which she said had been raised with her by multiple journalists from various news outlets.

“In the days following my interview with The Project regarding my experience in Parliament House, I was made aware by numerous journalists about the backgrounding that was happening against my partner,” it read.

“To my knowledge, this was being done by staff within the Prime Minister’s media team.”

It comes after the Prime Minister refused on Thursday to rule out his staff backgrounding against Ms Higgins’ partner, but said “no one” had raised the concerns with his chief of staff.

“There has been no one in the gallery, nothing has been raised with my office from anyone in the gallery making any of those accusations or any discomfort about anything that my office has done,” he told ABC Radio.

“People make allegations all the time second, third-hand. But there’s no one who has raised that with my chief of staff out of the gallery, no.”

Ms Higgins raised the claim when she addressed thousands of protesters gathered outside Parliament House for the March 4 Justice protests earlier this month.

“I watched as the Prime Minister of Australia publicly apologised to me through the media, while privately his team actively discredited and undermined my loved ones,” she said.

Labor has repeatedly pressed Mr Morrison on the allegation during question time, asking whether he had spoken to his staff to ascertain whether it was true.

Mr Morrison did not answer the question directly on March 15 – instead saying he had “no knowledge of that and I would never instruct that”– and has since referred all follow-ups to that answer.

The allegation was first raised publicly by Channel 10 chief political editor Peter van Onselen in February, when he accused the PMO of engaging in a “grubby” campaign against the partner.

“The Prime Minister’s Office has been backgrounding that her now partner has a vendetta, or a gripe might be the better way to put it, against the government because of him being a former public servant,” he said.

NCA NewsWire has approached the Prime Minister’s Office for comment.

NCA NewsWire did not receive any negative briefing about Ms Higgins’ partner, but is aware of allegations of briefings to other journalists.



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Rape, sex scandals rocking Australian Parliament


Coalition media adviser Brittany Higgins first came forward with claims she was raped in Parliament House by a colleague in a news.com.au story in mid-February.

Since then, the government has been rocked by scandal after scandal, including bombshell allegations Attorney-General Christian Porter raped a woman in 1988.

Here’s everything you need to know about the sex and rape scandals surrounding Parliament House in the past two months.

TIMELINE OF EVENTS

FEBRUARY 15: Coalition staffer Brittany Higgins says she was raped in Parliament House. The alleged rape occurred inside the office of Defence Minister Linda Reynolds about 2am on March 23, 2019, when Ms Higgins was aged 24. Her allegation to news.com.au is that after a night of drinking with colleagues, she got into a taxi with a male staffer while heavily intoxicated thinking she was going home. Instead he took her to Parliament House. She says she fell asleep on the couch in Ms Reynolds’ office and woke up with the man raping her.

She says she was crying and begging him to stop during the rape, and that she was left with bruises. She says he left her undressed on the couch to be discovered by security. She says she disclosed what happened to her chief of staff within the coalition at the time. After this, she says she was called to have a meeting about it in the same room that the rape occurred. She did not go to police at the time because she feared it could affect her job but has since made a formal complaint.

FEBRUARY 18: The Prime Minister’s office is accused by media figures of “backgrounding” journalists — making claims and comments without putting a name to it — against Ms Higgins’ partner after the rape story breaks on news.com.au. The accusation is denied by the government.

FEBRUARY 26: The ABC reports an unnamed senior cabinet minister has been accused of rape. It is revealed Prime Minister Scott Morrison and others were sent a letter detailing the historical allegation, with a thorough statement made by the woman, who took her own life in June aged 49. She claimed she was raped by the man when she was 16.

MARCH 3: Attorney-General Christian Porter reveals he is the cabinet minister accused of rape in a Perth press conference. He denies raping the woman in 1988 when he was 17 during a debating competition at Sydney University. “The things that have been claimed to happen did not happen,” he says. He goes on take stress leave, due to return March 31.

MARCH 3: The Australian reports that Defence Minister Linda Reynolds – in whose office the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins occurred — called Ms Higgins a “lying cow” to her staff after the original story came out in February. Ms Higgins sues her former boss for defamation in response, resulting in a confidential settlement which Ms Higgins says she is donating to organisations that help victims of sexual assault. Ms Reynolds, who was on already on medical leave, announces she will extend it.

MARCH 15: Tens of thousands of protesters take to the streets across Australia in March 4 Justice rallies in response to the shocking allegations coming out of parliament. In Canberra, Brittany Higgins delivers a powerful and emotional address. In Hobart, Grace Tame tells the crowd that evil thrives in silence and it’s time for “making noise”. In Perth, Christian Porter’s ex-wife Lucy Gunn is spotted marching with the crowd.

MARCH 15:Scott Morrison is criticised for his response to the marches, saying it was a triumph of democracy that protesters were not shot in Australia like they are in some countries overseas. “This is a vibrant liberal democracy,” he said. “Not far from here, such marches – even now – are being met with bullets but not here in this country. This is a triumph of democracy when we see these things take place.” He declines to attend the Canberra march but offers to meet with organisers in private, which is also declined.

MARCH 15: News.com.au reveals posts from a private Facebook group for women who work for the Labor Party, with harrowing allegations including senior male political figures pressuring women for sex and having sex with them when they were too drunk to consent, kissing them without consent, insulting them in crude and misogynistic language, and making comments on their looks.

MARCH 15:Christian Porter announces he is suing the ABC and journalist Louise Milligan claiming defamation over the story revealing an unnamed senior cabinet minister had been accused of rape.

MARCH 22: It is revealed a parliamentary probe into who in Scott Morrison’s office knew about the Brittany Higgins rape allegation was suspended on March 9. The man leading the probe, Phil Gaetjens, says it was suspended to ensure a police investigation was not interfered with.

MARCH 22: Photos and videosshowing a Coalition staffer masturbating on the desk of an unnamed female MP in Parliament House are revealed on Channel 10. An anonymous insider shares allegations that male staffers routinely send photos and videos taken within Parliament House of each other of a sexual nature. One photo is of a man exposing himself with a copy of the Parliament House rule book behind him. The source also claims the prayer room within Parliament House is routinely used for sex by staffers and MPs, and that sex workers are frequently brought into the building by those who work there. The Prime Minister says the staff member at the centre of the masturbating incident has been fired.

MARCH 22: Five other women by now have made allegations about the man accused of raping Brittany Higgins, including his former housemate Kriti Gupta who told the ABC she felt unsafe living with him because of his demands for sex. An anonymous Liberal staffer previously alleged to the Australian the man raped her at a hotel, another said he assaulted her while she was a virgin, another also said he sexually assaulted her, and another claimed he cornered her in a bar and started touching her .

MARCH 23: Scott Morrison breaks down in tears discussing the “shameful” behaviour aired in the Channel 10 report, saying he was “shocked” and “disgusted”. “I was completely stunned, as I have been on more than one occasion over the course of this last month”. The Prime Minister said it had been a “traumatic month”, beginning with the Brittany Higgins allegations. “Women have been putting up with this crap all their lives,” he said.



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Lidia Thorpe reveals sexual harassment experienced at Parliament House


After only six months in federal parliament, Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe has spoken out about the sexual harassment she has experienced from two senators and two MPs.

Senator Thorpe, who was the first Indigenous woman in Victorian Parliament and first Indigenous Senator for Victoria, joined a chorus of female politicians across party lines who over the last month have exposed the toxic culture they’ve been subjected to within Canberra’s Parliament House.

In an interview shared with news.com.au, Senator Thorpe detailed the unwanted, sexualised comments and physical advances she has endured, describing the behaviour as something she would expect in a “nightclub, not in my workplace”.

“Suggestive comments, as, you know, ‘What’ve you got in your mouth, what’re you eating?’, ‘I like what you’re wearing today’, ‘I like your hair, oh you’ve got your hair up today’,” she said, adding that the perpetrators are “always at it, just always at it”.

“There’s one particular senator who waits for me to talk in front of him. If he sees me coming out of my office, he’ll wait and walk behind me. My staff have witnessed this as well, what he’s looking at.”

In two separate incidents, Senator Thorpe said she’d had “two older men put their arm around me”, once when she was walking to the chamber for Question Time, and the other occasion when a House of Representatives member “put their arm around me during an inquiry”.

RELATED: Female MP exposes horrible abuse

“(It) made me feel really uncomfortable, and because I was in the inquiry, I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know what to say. I texted my staff member and said, ‘Oh my God, did he just put his hands on me?’ and my staff member just said, ‘I can’t believe what’s just happened’,” she said.

“It’s ongoing. It’s happened as late as today.”

Senator Thorpe said she’s tried to “avoid” the senator who put his arm around her when walking to Question Time, because he’s elevated to “unwanted comments” and “bad behaviour, and I don’t know what to do”.

“These people – they don’t care, they don’t care what is being said in the media. It’s not affecting how they think or affecting their behaviour,” she said.

“This particular person is also a bully, so there is a bit of a fear factor there as well. And he just couldn’t care less. Nothing is changing these behaviours, because there’s no repercussions for them – they can do whatever they like here. There’s no code of conduct here for politicians.”

In another case, Senator Thorpe said an MP, standing outside her office, looked her up and down and said he’d like to take her out to a private dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant – then called her office every second day to ask why she hadn’t responded to her invitation.

“I’ve got to work with these people, I’m a friendly person,” she said.

“And they somehow think that gives them permission to violate and sexualise me and other women in this place.”

After not even 12 months in Canberra, the encounters have left Senator Thorpe, who faces a “double whammy” of being a woman of colour, feeling not just disappointed, but fearful.

Initially, she told staff she could call it out “if it gets any worse”, because she wanted “these other women to have their agency and not have a politician come out and take that away”.

“I just haven’t wanted to say anything. And I suppose I was put on the spot this morning by the media after that sitting from Labor and Greens staffers about the violence, and I was compelled to actually say what’s been happening to me personally,” Senator Thorpe, who is considering making a formal complaint, said.

“I felt like I was silenced too, by the behaviours, and maybe that’s just the culture of the place. I mean – look what’s going on here, but look also (at) what’s going on around the country. It’s becoming normalised, and no one wants to take action.”

Asked if she thinks the perpetrators of the behaviour would be concerned by her speaking out, Senator Thorpe said no – because ultimately, they face no consequences for their actions.

“I think they’re so brazen. And these people believe they have so much power that they’re above the law and they can do whatever they like, and they’ll get a slap on the wrist,” she said.

“What do you get for being guilty of sexual harassment, or sexual assault or even rape in this place? What do you get? You get nothing. There’s no action.

“And usually, the whole focus turns back on the woman, and these fellas are getting off scot-free, with no repercussions at all. So why would they feel any threat?”

RELATED: Outrage over MP’s ‘support’ after sex scandal

Having frequently copped a barrage of abuse on social media, Senator Thorpe said the possibility of more backlash only made her “more determined to continue the fight for justice, and continue the fight for women’s rights in this country”.

“The march that we had here last week was just incredibly powerful, and I was on the grass right in front of Brittany Higgins when she was speaking, and I felt through my heart the pain and that made me want to fight harder,” she said.

“Enough’s enough. We’ve got to stop talking about the problem and we’ve got to actually deal with the problem – men’s behaviour. Men are the problem here and they need to be held to account. There needs to be consequences for men behaving badly in this place.”

RELATED: ‘Had a gutful’: Minister calls for big change

Senator Thorpe speaking out followed Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes revealing on Sky News that she was groped by a fellow politician (from a different party) when she worked in Parliament as a staffer.

“There was a former MP here who I know is not here anymore, who used to get particularly handsy if you saw them out,” Senator Hughes said.

“They’d just get ridiculously handsy. I have personally experienced it.”

Asked how she dealt with the situation at the time, Sen Hughes said she suggested to the colleague “it was home time for them, and (I) walked away”.

In an emotional press conference, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was shocked and disgusted by a month of revelations over alleged rapes, sexual assault and “disgusting behaviour” by men at Parliament House.

“We must get our House in order,” the PM said.

“Women have been putting up with this crap all their lives.”



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Mathias Cormann reveals what he knew about Brittany Higgins’ alleged rape


Former Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has revealed he was briefed on CCTV taken on the night Brittany Higgins was allegedly raped five months ago but never knew it involved an alleged assault.

The CCTV tracks Ms Higgins’ movements on the night of the alleged incident and the movements of the man who took her to Parliament.

It was the subject of extensive negotiations between police and Parliament’s presiding officers, who didn’t want to release it without agreement.

It was in this context that Mr Cormann was briefed as Senate leader on October 16, 2020 but he says he only knew it involved a security breach, not a potential crime.

Mr Cormann, who was recently elected the next secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) after leaving federal politics last year, was asked on ABC’s 7.30 what he knew about Ms Higgins’ case before he departed.

“I was not aware of what is alleged to have occurred back when the events occurred, but shortly before I left, I was made aware by the President of the Senate (Scott Ryan) of an incident,” Mr Cormann said.

“I wasn’t aware of the full detail.”

RELATED: Brittany Higgins slams PM at women’s march

RELATED: Cormann elected head of OECD

7.30 host Leigh Sales asked whether he probed for further details.

“Well, no,” Mr Cormann said.

“As I say, I wasn’t aware back at the time in any shape at all, at the time of the alleged incident.

“Shortly before I left, I was made aware of some DPS (Department of Parliamentary Services) footage having been maintained and I think that is something that (new leader of the Senate) Simon Birmingham has actually also indicated to you.”

Sales continued: “You were the Leader of the Senate, a rape allegedly occurred in a senator’s office. In June last year the Senate President asked the inspector general of intelligence and security to take a look at CCTV footage from the night of that incident. The Finance Department … knew of the late-night access and the possible security breach and you were a very powerful figure and nobody thought to tell you?”

Mr Cormann answered: “I was not aware of an alleged rape back then.

“The finance department has made very clear that I was not briefed in relation to matters that were the purview of the Special Minister of State at the time, which wasn’t me.

“Furthermore, I’m not even sure that the Finance Department knew at the time that there was such an allegation.”

Sales asked whether the Finance Department had been treating it as a “security breach”, “is that what you are saying?”.

“You are going well beyond my state of knowledge,” Mr Cormann said.

“As I indicated to you, I had no knowledge at the time at all. The Finance Department has made it very clear that they did not provide me of any briefings at the time, even of the alleged security breach. I certainly had no knowledge at all of any alleged rape at the time.”

Ultimately, the Parliament agreed to store the CCTV footage and release it to police only if a formal complaint was made. As a result of Ms Higgins restarting the police case last month it can now be provided to police under the agreement.

Mr Cormann’s secret briefing on the CCTV was first flagged by Finance Minister Simon Birmingham on February 24.

“So I only became aware of the alleged rape when the media story became public,” Senator Birmingham said.

“I had been made aware at an earlier point in relation to the storage of CCTV footage about an incident that the AFP had shown interest in.

“The President of the Senate had advised me, as I understand, he had previously advised the then leader of the government in the Senate and the leader of the opposition in the Senate in accordance with practises just around those CCTV issues.”

However, until now Mr Cormann has not detailed the extent of his knowledge.

He stressed he never knew about an alleged rape until news.com.au broke the story on February 15.



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Christian Porter accused of rape: Doubts in accuser’s story


The psychiatric history of the Adelaide woman who accused Attorney-General Christian Porter of rape and two factual errors in her statement has prompted speculation that she may have used repressed memory theory to access her trauma despite clearly stating she had “always remembered these things.”

Friends of the woman have disputed the claims, insisting that she disclosed the alleged incident to friends before September 2019, the date when she says a counsellor pointed her towards a book that champions controversial theories.

In her statement, the woman does not state that she had recently remembered the incident and includes diary entries which she claims referred to the incident in 1991, three years after she attended the debating tournament.

She discussed telling an old boyfriend, Macquarie Infrastructure Corp director James Hooke.

However, there is no way of confirming at this stage when those diary entries were made.

“I have always remembered these things,” she wrote.

But she does note write that she had a “better understanding” after reading a controversial New York Times bestseller.

“I had a better understanding of these memories, and only really understood them, once my Sydney based psychologist (who specialises in counselling sexual assault survivors) referred me to The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma in September 2019,’’ she said.

“I had not previously heard of it, nor had I read it. My Adelaide-based psychiatrist confirmed that these are ‘somatic memories’ (i.e. lodged in the body rather than the brain, although the mind can access them) in an appointment in late 2019.”

The book the woman read was written by Bessel Van Der Kolk, director of The Trauma Center in Boston, professor of psychiatry at Boston University, and director of the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress Complex Trauma Network.

He is recognised as a pioneer of mind-body interventions, such as controversial eye-movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), neurofeedback, and yoga.

In 2014, he was the subject of a highly critical New York Times article that accused Kolk of practising a “hokey-sounding approach to therapy” and argued he was “a lead defender of repressed-memory therapy.”

It also said he had been an expert witness in court cases involving therapists accused of implanting false memories of early abuse, cases in which “entire lives were destroyed”.

Van der Kolk refuted that he had been a “defender” of repressed-memory therapy, insisting he had simply testified on behalf of sexual-abuse victims of Catholic clergy when the lawyers had tried to discredit the plaintiffs.

“Trauma evokes a lot of passion,” he said. “Passion to deny, and passion to assert. I see what happened with this article as a reflection of the incredible difficulties society has with staring trauma in the face and providing people with the facts of what happens, how bad it is, and how well treatments work.”

Concerns that repressed memory treatment could be raised as an issue in her coronial inquiry were first raised on Friday by online news outlet Crikey that suggested her memories were “freshly minted.”

“This is wrong. Our friend sought professional help for her trauma years before 2019,’’ friend Jo Dyer, the director of the Adelaide Writers Festival said.

“Her memories never had to be “recovered” as she lived with them constantly. An inquiry would establish this beyond a shred of doubt.”

There are other friends she disclosed the allegations to before reading the book in September.

They include Robert Crocker, an Adelaide-based academic and writer told Guardian Australia that she told him about the alleged rape in February 2019, which is significantly earlier than many of her other friends.

He also confirmed that she had claimed she met Mr Porter in 1994, a claim repeated in her unsigned affidavit.

“I do remember that she mentioned a [subsequent] social event – a dinner,” Crocker said. “She did definitely mention some dinner.” Crocker said he spoke to her several times in 2019 and then once more in 2020, before her death.

A spokesman for Porter said it was “not impossible” that he had done so “but the attorney general does not recollect any specific contact”.

The woman also told former Liberal staffer Chelsey Potter, who made headlines in 2019 with her own sexual assault allegation. Ms Potter did not know the woman but was told after she disclosed to a neighbour who was also a member of the Liberal Party in August and suggested she get in touch with Ms Potter.

Another old friend, who she spoke to shortly after she met with police in Sydney in February 2020 and drove her to the airport said she seemed “lucid” at the time she visited police.

“She was lucid, calm, rational, attentive, forensic,” Mr Kalowski told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“In no way was she delusional or away with the fairies.”

“We are not out for blood or to destroy anyone, we are simply out to seek justice for [our friend] as best as can be achieved in circumstances where she is no longer alive.”

Sky News commentator Andrew Bolt also argued this week that the woman’s claims were “falling apart” noting two incorrect claims in her unsigned affidavit.

He noted the parents reportedly had concerns she may have “embellished” the account.

“So I ask, is it possible that this mentally ill woman was acting under a delusion? Some people claiming to be victims do lie. Some are delusional,’’ he said.

He cited two key problems with her memories.

The first error is that she said they had gone dancing in Kings Cross at the Hard Rock Cafe – which did not open until a year later. The Hard Rock Cafe is also not in Kings Cross, it’s close to Pyrmont in Darling Harbour.

However, there is another pub in Kings Cross that was open at the time that operated under the name the Oz Rock Cafe, an iconic pub that is now known as the Kings Cross Hotel.

It lies on the four-way cross intersection of Darlinghurst Road, Bayswater Road, William Street and Victoria Street, Kings Cross.

The second, more important issue that Bolt raised was that she said she had vomited when the pair went back to her rooms and that she said he had put her into the bath.

“Plans from four years ago show there were no baths in that college at all, only showers. So, that’s two details now…that are wrong.”

Her unsigned statement however is more confused about exactly what happened.

“I lost track of time, disassociating badly in order to cope. (He) then took me from my bedroom to the bathroom at the Langley Building at women’s and made me take a bath or a shower. (I was still too drunk to stand so it probably was a bath),’’ she said.

Mr Porter denies he was ever there and said that nothing sexual ever happened between them.

It’s true that it is not clear if there were baths at the Women’s College at the time.

The building has undergone multiple refurbishments and renovations over that period. In the 1970s for example, the architects Joseland and Gilling converted the buildings living quarters into self-contained two bedroom units for married couples or twin share for students.

It underwent major works in 1999-2001.

But perhaps a more significant issue is how they got there. The women’s college at the Newtown campus is an 11 minute cab ride or a one hour walk from Kings Cross. She doesn’t mention how they got there, but said that when he did she walked him to her room.

She does say she was drunk and there was a “surreal quality to her memories.”

The team she competed with at the debating tournament in 1988 included four people.

Those people included the Labor MP Daniel Mulino – who she told about the allegations in recent years but asked to stay out of it because she didn’t want it to look like a “partisan” issue.

“I was a friend of the complainant,’’ Dr Mulino said.

“I first became aware of the complainant’s allegation December, 2019.”

“She indicated to me that she was determined to proceed with a formal complaint and I supported her in that decision.”

The other member was Matthew Deeble, who she also told in recent years and of course Mr Porter and the Adelaide woman who died by suicide in June, 2020.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that many of the people that she mixed with in debating circles went on to careers in politics and the law.

Two other men who attended the 1988 university debating competition that she attended with Christian Porter, went on to become cabinet ministers in the Morrison Government.

Health minister, Greg Hunt, who was a member of the Victorian team and communications minister, Paul Fletcher, even attended the tournament although Mr Hunt said he had no recollection of the woman.

Mr Fletcher, who attended the conference as an adjudicator did know her.

NSW police have said there is “insufficient admissible evidence” to continue their investigation. But a coronial inquest in SA remains a distinct possibility and SA police are undertaking further inquiries into the various claims raised in the media in recent days.

The Prime Minister said on Friday that a coronial inquest was a matter for SA authorities.

“The issue as to whether there is a coronial inquiry in South Australia is entirely a matter for the South Australian coroner,” he said.

“And if they chose to go ahead with that, of course, I would welcome that.

“But it would be highly inappropriate for me as prime minister, or any other politician, to interfere or intervene in a decision that a coroner should properly make about those issues.”

Mr Morrison also said that if Mr Porter was called to give evidence at a coronial inquiry that he would of course cooperate.

“And if the coroner sought that, then I have no doubt that the attorney general would cooperate with any coronial process.”



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Josh Frydenberg on ‘very serious’ matter


Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has declared the Liberal minister accused of rape has “the right to the presumption of innocence” as the government resists calls for the man to be stood down.

The claims relate to a historic rape allegations that dates back more than 30 years. While investigated by police last year, it’s believed the Adelaide woman contacted police suggesting she was too embarrassed to continue shortly before her death by suicide.

The alleged incident did not occur in South Australia but interstate, in 1988.

NSW police can no longer investigate the matter because the woman has died but her friends are calling for a judicial investigation and for the man to stand down.

Mr Frydenberg said the Liberal MP has a right to protect his good name and the presumption of innocence.

“Every Australian deserves that right,’’ he said.

RELATED: Bombshell teen rape letter rocks Canberra

“So, yes, there have been very serious matters raised across the Parliament in recent weeks. This has been the subject of much commentary and attention. But the focus has to be now on process.

“And we have seen a letter from the head of the Australian Federal Police and that letter, to the Prime Minister and subsequently made available to the Parliament, again re-emphasises the need for these matters to be in the hands of authorities, they are the best people to be dealing with such matters.

“Everybody, including that … minister that you referred to, is entitled to the presumption of innocence. We in Australia adhere to the rule of law. The rule of law means there is a presumption. It is with the Federal Police and they are the appropriate authorities.”

RELATED: Letter reveals woman’s rape claim

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison is yet to comment on the allegations and the anonymous letter, which was first reported by the ABC’s Four Corners on Friday night.

Two more federal MPs have also revealed they were aware of a historical rape allegation made against serving senior minister.

Liberal MP Celia Hammond, who the Prime Minister had suggested might lead an inquiry into workplace culture at Parliament House, has confirmed she was also sent an anonymous 31-page dossier detailing the allegation last week.

“I gave it to the Australian Federal Police on Wednesday afternoon and I alerted the Prime Minister’s Office,’’ she said.

Labor MP Daniel Mulino, who was a friend of the complainant, has told the ABC the alleged victim contacted him in December 2019.

“She indicated to me that she was determined to proceed with a formal complaint and I supported her in that decision,” he said.

“I ensured that the complainant was receiving appropriate support. I am greatly saddened by the death of my friend. I know that this has been a devastating period for the woman’s family and close friends. My thoughts are with them.”

The dossier, that includes an unsworn witness statement prepared by the alleged victim was also sent to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

A government spokesman stressed that the ministerial code only requires a minister to stand down if he is charged with a crime. The minister has not been charged with a crime and he is not the subject of a police investigation.

“As per the AFP Commissioner’s instruction, any complaints or allegations of this nature made to anybody – whether they’re parliamentarians or journalists – should be referred to the AFP,” the spokesman said.

Another Liberal senator Sarah Henderson has referred allegations that a woman was raped by a male Labor MP to police.

The matter relates to allegations that were previously investigated by VicPol in the last decade. The man subsequently identified himself, declared his innocence and the fact he had been cleared by police.

RELATED: Brittany hits out at ‘blame shifting’

The Prime Minister is under pressure to stand down a minister at the centre of historic rape allegations and to hold a parliamentary investigation after he received an anonymous letter penned by “friends” of a dead woman who told police she was raped in 1988 calling for “justice”.

News.com.au has obtained a copy of the correspondence, detailing the claims of the Adelaide woman who also left behind a trove of emails, letters and statements detailing an alleged assault when she was just 16 years old. The alleged incident occurred interstate.

The letter, which was sent to the Prime Minister on the day of the dead woman’s 50th birthday, details the “complex and distressing” claims. The woman also sought help from the former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull before her death.

“When news of (her) rape becomes widely known to the public (as it most likely will) legitimate questions will be asked as to who knew what, when they knew it and what they did,’’ the letter states.

It also references the alleged sexual assault of a former Liberal staffer whose claims are now being investigated by police.

“This is occurring today in relation to Brittany Higgins,’’ the letter states.

“In (REDACTED) case, the loss of respect for our political institutions will be exacerbated.

“There will be considerable damage to community perceptions of justice … and the Parliament if it is simultaneously revealed that the senior people (like yourselves) were aware of the accusation but had done nothing.

“There are rapists in all parties. This is a difficult issue. Victims share information in confidence and sometimes do not want to pursue claims, at least initially.

“In this case, the victim shared her story with many and begged people to help her seek justice. To date, defamation law and political inactivity have adversely affected the ability of (her) claim to be properly addressed.”

But it states that NSW police cannot investigate the matter because the complainant died by suicide in June, 2019.

“Given the facts of this case, we suggest you could follow the lead of the Chief Justice of the High Court in relation to the allegations against Justice Heydon. You could ask Vivienne Thom to conduct a discrete preliminary investigation into the matter to see what facts can be established.

“Failure to take parliamentary action because the NSW Police cannot take criminal action would feel like a wilful blindness.

On Sunday, Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the Prime Minister now needed to weigh up whether it was appropriate for the minister at the centre of a historic rape allegation to remain in the position

“This now will be a very dark cloud over the Parliament,’’ he said.



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Anthony Albanese on new revelations


Explosive claims a second woman was allegedly raped by the same person involved in the Brittany Higgins case are “deeply distressing”, Anthony Albanese says.

The Australian reports a second woman – who spoke on the condition of anonymity – has come ­forward claiming she was sexually assaulted by the same former Liberal party staffer.

The woman said she wanted to support Ms Higgins, who this week alleged she was raped by a colleague in a minister’s office in March 2019.

“If this had been properly dealt with by the government in 2019 this would not have happened to me,’’ she told The Australian.

Federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese on Saturday said the new revelations were “quite shocking”.

“It was a very detailed account given,” Mr Albanese said.

“My heart goes out to the person concerned.

“Sexual assault is a scourge on our society.”

He commended Ms Higgins for her bravery in going public with her claims this week but said she “deserves answers”.

Ms Higgins on Friday announced she had re-engaged with Australian Federal Police and will proceed with a formal complaint regarding the crime committed against her.

“I want a comprehensive police investigation into what happened to me on 22/23 March 2019 and for my perpetrator to face the full force of the law,” she said in a statement.

“I am determined to drive significant reform in the way the Australian Parliament handles issues of this nature and treats ministerial and parliamentary staff more generally.”

The Morrison government’s handling of the situation has been criticised this week after it was revealed Ms Higgins was called to an employment meeting shortly after the alleged assault in the room where she claims it occurred.

Explosive text messages on Thursday confirmed a staffer told Ms Higgins in April 2019 – two weeks after the event – that he had spoken to the Prime Minister’s office.

However, Scott Morrison told the parliament on Tuesday his office first found out about the allegations on February 12, and he was only told three days later when Ms Higgins went public.

Mr Morrison on Friday said he had tasked the head of his department to investigate the advice and the timeline of events.

An independent review into the workplaces of the parliament and its staff is also underway.

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, who was also aware of the event that allegedly occurred in her office barely a month out from the 2019 federal election, did not tell the prime minister.

Senator Reynolds this week apologised in the parliament to Ms Higgins for not making her feel more supported.

Mr Albanese and independent Senator Jacqui Lambie have called for Senator Reynolds to resign over the handling of the incident.

“The reported sexual assault was seen as a political problem as opposed to a crime against Ms Higgins that needed to be dealt with,” Mr Albanese said.



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Defence Minister Linda Reynolds grilled over Brittany Higgins’ alleged rape


Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has been grilled in the Senate over her handling of the alleged rape of Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins in her office two years ago, and is now claiming she didn’t know at first it was a potential sexual assault – despite urging her to go to the police.

Senator Reynolds faced a barrage of questions on Monday in Question Time over her “conduct” and the decision to hold a formal employment meeting with the staffer in the same room where Ms Higgins alleges the sexual assault occurred in March, 2019.

The Morrison Government has released a statement accepting this was “not appropriate” as a venue.

But Senator Reynolds revealed for the first time today that when she called the meeting she didn’t know it was a sexual assault allegation – a claim not previously made by the government.

At the time, her acting chief of staff who was seconded from Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office had already sought written advice from the Department of Finance over how to handle a potential sexual assault allegation.

RELATED: PM image that made Brittany speak

Labor’s Senate leader Penny Wong seized on the inconsistency in Question Time.

“In Question Time today the Minister explained the location of the meeting by indicating she was at that point unaware of the alleged assault,” Senator Wong said.

“Can the Minister explain how she claimed she was unaware of the alleged assault at the time of that meeting given the meeting took place after Ms Higgins had reported the assault to the Minister as chief-of-staff?”

But in response, Senator Reynolds said she would need to see “legal advice”.

“Senator Wong I will again take that question on notice because it – no, it goes to a very important matter and that, this is still the subject of an open AFP investigation since April 2019,” Senator Reynolds said.

“I can confirm the details of that first meeting and, as I said at that first meeting, I was unaware of the circumstances of the alleged incident. I will seek some further legal advice in terms of the detail of how much I can communicate publicly and I will come back to the chamber as soon as I can on that.”

Senator Wong then asked if Senator Reynolds could explain how she now claimed she was unaware of the assault at the time of the reported meeting, given her answer also today that she told Ms Higgins in that meeting that the Minister would support her going to the police.

“Senator Wong, I did not in fact say that it was at that meeting about the police,” she said.

“What I did confirm is that all throughout this I took all of the relevant advice from minute store ideal and parliamentary services that information was communicated to my staff member and including my recommendation to her that she consider talking to the AFP and seeking advice from them, which again is something that I facilitated for her.

“Now, in terms of any further detail on that, I will go and seek advice because it is the subject I have been advised of an ongoing AFP investigation into the matter, which was opened in April 2019. So I do need to make sure that I don’t prejudice anything that she may have decided the do then and now.”

RELATED: PM ‘distressed’ by staffer’s alleged rape

Senator Reynolds was under sustained pressure over her decision to call a formal employment meeting with Ms Higgins about the incident in the room where she was allegedly raped.

“That conduct included the Minister and her then chief of staff meeting with her staff member in the same room the alleged rape occurred,” SA Labor Senator Alex Gallacher said.

“Can the Minister assure the Senate that she and her office have exercised and will exercise an appropriate duty of care, including the provision of support for the victim of an alleged sexual assault in the Minister’s office in March 2019?”

In response, Ms Reynolds said she was aware of the news.com.au report and insisted she had tried to offer Ms Higgins support and counselling.

“I’m extremely concerned about the wellbeing of my former staff member,” Senator Reynolds said.

But for the first time, she also claimed she did not know Ms Higgins had been sexually assaulted when she was called to the meeting, despite previously stating in that meeting she urged her to go to police in the meeting.

“At the time of the initial meeting with my staff member, I was not aware of the details or the circumstances of the alleged incident in my office. Had I known, I would have conducted the meeting elsewhere. Given the sensitivities surrounding this issue, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further,” she told the Senate.

This claim was not made in a lengthy statement provided to news.com.au late on Sunday night that said the decision to call the meeting was “not appropriate”.

News.com.au went to the Morrison Government for comment on the story on Friday at 2:30pm before receiving the final response from a government spokesman at 9:19pm on Sunday night. That statement was amended and updated on Monday morning to express “regret” for Ms Higgins any distress over the handling of the issue.

Senator Reynolds went on to support the right of women to feel safe in their workplaces.

“Women should be safe and they should feel safe in the workplace at all times. My only priority throughout this matter was the welfare of my then staff member and ensuring that she received the support that she needed.

“That included ensuring that she was clear about the support available to her, and her right to make a formal complaint to the Australian Federal Police should she choose to do so.

“At all times, my then chief of staff and I ensured that we sought advice from and we followed advice from ministerial and parliamentary services regarding the support available. I was at pains to ensure that my staff member felt empowered to determine how she wanted to handle the matter, and that remains the case.”

Senator Gallacher also asked Senator Reynolds if she could assure the Senate that “neither she, her staff nor any of the Prime Minister’s staff said or did anything which may have implicitly encouraged her former staff member not to pursue the incident with police?”

“As I said in my first answer, my first and only concern was then, and remains, her welfare, including her right to understand all of her options and for those to be presented to her, which they were. She did continue, after this incident, in my employ and then moved to Senator Cash’s office for the proceeding two years,” Senator Reynolds said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison also made his first public comments on the “distressing” allegations in question time in response to a question from Labor leader Anthony Albanese.

“My government takes all such matters – all matters of workplace safety – very, very seriously,” he said.

“Reports today are deeply distressing. This matter is under consideration by police.

“At all times, guidance was sought from Ms Higgins as to how she wished to proceed. And to support and respect her decisions.

“This important best practice principle of empowering Miss Higgins is something the government always sought to follow in relation to this matter.

“The government has aimed to provide Miss Higgins with her agency, to provide support to make decisions in her interests and to respect her privacy.

“This offer of support and assistance continues.”

Greens leader Larissa Waters told the Senate that Parliament is a “high-risk workplace”.

“Ms Brittany Higgins said, of the side of the Prime Minister standing next to Young Australian of the Year, Grace Tame, herself a survivor of sexual assault: He’s standing next to a woman who has campaigned for ‘Let Her Speak’, and yet in my mind his government was complicit in silencing me. It was a betrayal. It was alive,” Senator Waters said.

“Would you support requesting the Sex Discrimination Commissioner to undertake a culture review of Parliament House to recommend ways of keeping staff safe?”

Leader of the Government in the Senate, Simon Birmingham, said the importance of staff safety was paramount but did not commit to a review.

“It is crucial that we ensure that the processes that are available to staff are thorough. Certainly as Minister in this space I am committed to working with the Department of Finance to ensure that staff can have confidence in those processes and procedures and make use of them,” he said.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the allegations were “distressing”.

“Firstly, this must be deeply distressing for the woman involved, and she has absolute sympathy and total support,” he said.

“Secondly, as I understand it, the subject of investigations. The advice that I have is that there will be investigations, if there aren’t currently.”

Asked if Senator Reynolds should apologise, Mr Hunt said he was not in a position to answer the question.

“Respectfully, I don’t have any of the details. And given the potentially criminal nature of the issue, it’s not appropriate for me to be commenting. And I hope that you understand that.”

In a statement, the AFP has described it as an “open” investigation despite the fact it was suspended nearly two years ago in April, 2019.

ACT Policing received a report in April 2019 in relation to an alleged assault at Parliament House. ACT Policing investigators subsequently spoke to the complainant who chose not to proceed with making a formal complaint, a spokesperson said.

“ACT Policing’s investigation remains open but did not progress at that time as a result. As part of initial enquiries, ACT Policing also liaised with Department of Parliamentary Services.

“Victims always have a say in how far a police investigation goes, can determine that a matter not proceed to prosecution, and can withdraw from the process at any time. It is not uncommon for an investigation to halt, not proceed to prosecution, or to be recommenced at a later time, at the request of a victim.”

Do you know more about this story? You can contact: samantha.maiden@news.com.au



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