Explosive texts suggest PM's office did know about alleged rape

Explosive new text messages have raised questions over whether Prime Minister Scott Morrison's office knew about the alleged rape of a young female staffer at Parliament House in March 2019.

Brittany Higgins, then 24, was working for the Minister for Defence, Linda Reynolds, when she was allegedly sexually assaulted in her boss's office.

Following the incident, Ms Higgins claims she was called into a meeting with Senator Reynolds in the same room where she was allegedly raped.

Brittany Higgins in a white suit.
Brittany Higgins says she was raped at Parliament House in 2019. Source: Nine News

Mr Morrison told reporters on Tuesday he only found out about the incident as Ms Higgins spoke out about it on Monday.

He denied there was a "don't ask, don't tell" policy in his office.

"I can assure you there is no such culture and I'm not happy about the fact it was not brought to my attention," Mr Morrison told reporters on Tuesday.

In text messages reportedly seen by News.com.au that were allegedly exchanged between Ms Higgins and another Liberal staffer in the month after the alleged incident, the staffer asked if he could refer the matter to the Prime Minister's Office.

A mock-up of a reported text exchange between Brittany Higgins and another Liberal staffer.
The texts between Brittany Higgins and another Liberal staffer. Source: Supplied

According to the text messages, the man said he spoke to a staffer in the Prime Minister's Office after Ms Higgins said it would be "potentially helpful".

"He was mortified to hear about it and how things have been handled," a text from the Liberal staffer to Ms Higgins said.

"He's going to discuss with COS (Chief of Staff) – no one else. I flagged need for councillor (sic) and desire to be closer to home during election."

The staffer in the Prime Minister's Office apparently told about the incident said he was not informed of the alleged rape and instead asked to help find Ms Higgins another job, News.com.au reported.

Labor leader questions PM's timeline

Fronting media on Friday, Mr Morrison was asked by reporters if he had misled the Australian public and said: "I certainly had not.

"I have sought to be as open and honest as I can be about this matter. I have told you everything I know about this matter. I will continue to. This is devastating. This is awful," he said.

Pictured is Scott Morrison speaking about rape allegations made by Brittany Higgins against a male staffer.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a press conference to answer sexual assault allegations made by staffer Brittany Higgins against a male staffer at Parliament House. Source: AAP

"There are many who... [have] been confronted with this information I'm sure would agree.

"The thing that is most important are the issues that Brittany has raised and I have been listening to those carefully and seeking to address them in the best possible way I can. I will just continue to do that.

"We have to deal with issues of culture which I'm sure you would agree are not confined to the offices of parliamentarians."

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the text messages contradict Mr Morrison's claim his office wasn't informed until last week.

"It's just incomprehensible that the Prime Minister's office, given a reported sexual assault had occurred 50 metres from his office, wouldn't have then had a discussion about handling the issue," he told the ABC on Friday.

"It just doesn't stack up. It's no wonder that people, from Peta Credlin to Malcolm Turnbull, have questioned the accounts."

Mr Albanese said Ms Higgins deserved straight answers about who knew what and when.

"I believe Brittany Higgins when it comes to the incident and tragedy," he said.

with AAP

If you or somebody you know is experiencing sexual abuse or family violence contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732, the Sexual Assault Support Services on 6231 1811 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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