I went to university with Samantha Maiden, journalist at large, who recently broke the story that a Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins had been raped at Parliament House. The rape took place on a couch in Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ ministerial office following a 2019 Liberal Party function. The rapist signed her in, led her to the minister’s office, then sexually assaulted her. She was discovered in the office next morning by security.
In writing up the piece, Samantha Maiden uses the word “alleged” four times, and refers to the victim’s “claim” that she was raped. Michelle Grattan, the grand dame of political reportage, in describing the Prime Ministers reaction to the news also repeats the word “alleged” seven times. In a follow-up analysis today, Grattan again uses “alleged” no less than seven times.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister suggested the victim might be “confused” and when asked today in Parliament whether he accepts her account, he fudged. Instead of answering the question, he dodged to some nonsense about his “office” needing to “verify that advice”. In other words, he is in full panic-mode and obfuscating for his political life.
The victim-blaming is disgusting. Our government’s puerile argument that they did nothing (or not enough) because they wanted the victim to retain ‘agency’ is blame shifting and responsibility denial at its worst. But it’s also a tacit nod to the victim’s dilemma — her genuine belief that if she went to the police she would have lost her ‘dream’ job.
What turned it into a nightmare surely was how at every step she was betrayed by women. Defense minister Linda Reynolds, on whose office couch the victim was raped, did nothing. Reynolds’ chief of staff Fiona Brown did nothing except interview the victim on the exact same couch weeks later. Michaelia Cash, another minister, uttered banal platitudes but likewise did nothing.
But this is a criminal matter. There is no statute of limitations. The guy is captured on CCTV. He signed her into Parliament House. Security know what happened to her. She made early disclosure, and nothing was done except hush it up. SOMEBODY is going to gaol, and other people are going to rue the day they did nothing.
Mandatory reporting of criminal offences is an obligation upon all public servants. Except, it seems, members of Parliament. To save his own skin the Prime Minister’s first panicked reaction was to publicly throw his Defence minister under the closest bus. When pressed, he then defaulted to his favourite act: the tearful daggy-dad, father of daughters. But his crocodile tears fool no-one.
Of course the Prime Minister’s opponents in the Labor Party can taste blood in the water, and have viciously and gleefully attacked. And rightfully so. This is a disgrace. Heads will roll, but I’m absolutely certain one of them won’t belong to Scotty from Marketing. Wait for the conservatives to quash the criminal investigation in favour of an enormously large sum of hush-money and a non-disclosure agreement.
Cynics might argue that a massive wad of cash is exactly what Brittany Higgins wants; but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. After two years of suffering in silence under the delusion that maybe getting raped on a couch is the price you pay to cool your skin and grow the scales and forked tongue needed to blend in with this nest of vipers, maybe she discovered she was warm-blooded after all.