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18 Feb, 2021 20:19

A #MeToo rape scandal has rocked the Australian parliament, but woke culture is obscuring what’s most important: the facts

A #MeToo rape scandal has rocked the Australian parliament, but woke culture is obscuring what’s most important: the facts

This week a serious sexual misconduct allegation exploded at the heart of Australian politics, engulfing Parliament House in Canberra, along with the prime minister and two of his senior ministers.

During a week in which Prime Minister Scott Morrison was looking forward to basking in the glory of the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine program, he has spent most of his time trying to deal with the fallout from an allegation that a junior female political staffer, Ms Brittany Higgins, was raped in a minister’s office in Parliament House in March 2019. 

This is a classic #MeToo scandal with a political twist. 

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It involves an allegation of sexual assault that took place some time ago, which has never been properly investigated. It now threatens to damage the careers of a number of prominent individuals. There is an additional political dimension, which has compounded the intensity of the entire scandal. 

As with all #MeToo cases, the key issue that should be investigated – namely, what actually happened – cannot even be raised. To do so would be to transgress the fundamental dictates of woke culture.    

The basic facts in the Higgins case are tolerably clear – although, as one would expect, some are in dispute. 

Very late on a Saturday night in March 2019, Ms Higgins and a male political staffer gained access to the Parliament House office of Senator Linda Reynolds – at the time, minister for defence industry – for whom they both worked. Both had been drinking heavily. This constituted a serious security breach, given the confidential material held in the office. 

A sexual encounter – Ms Higgins alleges it was rape – occurred on a couch in the office. 

The male staffer left, and the next morning Ms Higgins was discovered in the office in a state of undress and dishevelment by security guards. Ms Higgins made no complaint of rape that day, and the office was cleaned. A few days later, the male staffer was sacked for having committed a security breach.

Ms Higgins was also in trouble, and some days later she told Senator Reynolds that she had been raped. Senator Reynolds advised her to report the matter to the police. 

Ms Higgins told the police of the incident but chose not to pursue a formal complaint and continued to work for Senator Reynolds until transferring to the office of Senator Michaelia Cash, the minister for employment.

In 2020 an anonymous complaint was made to the Parliament House authorities that there had been a cover-up in relation to the Higgins incident. 

An inquiry was instituted and found that the allegation was false – on the basis that no complaint of rape had been made at the time of the office cleaning.

Senator Cash informed the Senate this week that, when she became aware of the matter, she had offered to go to the police and/or the prime minister with Ms Higgins, but Ms Higgins had said the matter had been resolved and she did not wish to pursue it. This has not been disputed by Ms Higgins.

After resigning from her position as a political staffer earlier this month, Ms Higgins went public with her allegations. 

Ms Higgins immediately became a heroine of woke media organisations in Australia. 

As is the case in all #MeToo matters, it was assumed that everything Ms Higgins said was true, and she was not asked any probing questions – for example, why she did not immediately complain of the rape and why she did not pursue her initial police complaint. The dominant ideological climate, of course, precludes such questions from being asked of a #MeToo complainant. 

Later this week, emboldened no doubt by her media fame, Ms Higgins announced that she would be making a formal complaint to the police, and accused the prime minister of “victim blaming” and leaking adverse information about her to the media.

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When the leader of the opposition Labor Party, Anthony Albanese (a bumbling political failure who pathetically seized on the scandal in the hope of gaining some much-needed political traction), questioned the prime minister on the issue in parliament, Morrison wisely refused to be drawn, and responded by saying that he was primarily concerned about Ms Higgins’ welfare.

The prime minister said he had not been aware of the matter until this week, and admonished Senator Reynolds for not having brought it to his attention. Both he and Senator Reynolds apologised to Ms Higgins, and the prime minister established two inquiries into workplace culture in Parliament House generally. 

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton pointed out that Senators Reynolds and Cash had done all they could have to assist Ms Higgins – not an unreasonable proposition, given Ms Higgins’ repeated refusals to take the matter further.

This, however, did not stop woke former Prime Ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd from entering the fray. Both severely criticised the prime minister and suggested he had lied about his involvement. 

Labor senators have spent all week demonising the prime minister and Senators Reynolds and Cash. Morrison was even criticised for saying that he hoped his two daughters would not have to go through what Ms Higgins had gone through.

Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie, who is currently being sued by former staff members for bullying and abuse, nevertheless called for Senator Reynolds’ immediate resignation. 

And what of the alleged rapist?  He reportedly checked into a psychological treatment facility in Sydney this week, apparently opting for victim status rather than giving his account of what happened on the night in question. Some may take this as an indication that Ms Higgins is telling the truth, but the man could also be seeking some sort of protection in a case that could turn against him regardless of what the truth is, or be genuinely stressed out of his wits by the case and the publicity. Either way, the man has not been investigated or charged.

Morrison’s inquiries will not reveal what actually happened between Ms Higgins and the male staffer. They are not designed to. 

Ms Higgins’ police complaint may be more conclusive – but #MeToo complaints often fail in court in Australia. Recent examples abound, including the Geoffrey Rush and Chris Gayle defamation cases, in which the female complainants were disbelieved. Two weeks ago, a domestic violence case brought against actor Dan Wylie by his wife was thrown out by the court, and a finding was made that the wife had lied. 

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Unfortunately, the woke culture that now dominates in Western democracies will ensure that we will probably never really know what happened on that Saturday night in March 2019 in Parliament House in Canberra. 

It is very likely, however, that some prominent careers will nevertheless be seriously damaged by the ensuing scandal.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.