Aussie PM apologises to former employee allegedly raped in Parliament

CANBERRA : Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison apologised yesterday to a woman who alleged that she was sexually assaulted in Parliament two years ago for the way her complaint was handled, ordering a probe into the government's workplace culture.

Ms Brittany Higgins alleged she was raped by a male colleague in now Defence Minister Linda Reynolds' office in 2019, after a night out drinking with Liberal Party colleagues.

Ms Higgins told that after she reported the incident to a superior, she was asked to attend a formal employment meeting in the same room the alleged rape occurred.

Then aged 24 and a few months into her "dream job", she described feeling forced to choose between her career and making a report to police.

Police confirmed they had spoken to Ms Higgins in April 2019, but she chose not to make a formal complaint.

Ms Reynolds on Monday confirmed she had been told of the complaint in 2019, though she denied Ms Higgins was pressured into not making a report.

Mr Morrison yesterday apologised to Ms Higgins and promised an investigation.

"That should not have happened, and I do apologise," Mr Morrison told reporters.

"I want to make sure any young woman working in this place is as safe as possible."

Ms Reynolds also apologised a few hours later.

"Saying sorry is often the hardest thing for those of us who work in this place to say," Ms Reynolds said. "But can I say today, sorry is the easiest word for me to say." - REUTERS, AFP