Canberra, Feb 16: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has apologised to a former political adviser who has alleged that she was raped by a senior colleague in a minister’s office in the Parliament.
The 26-year-old woman said she had feared losing her job after the 2019 incident, and had little support from her bosses, the BBC reported on Tuesday.
She spoke out in a TV interview on Monday that has prompted shock and outrage over her treatment. Morrison apologised for the government’s handling of her complaint.
The allegations are now under a renewed police investigation.
Morrison said he was “shattered” by her claims, and had called for a review into parliament’s environment and culture.
“I hope her call is a wake-up call for all of us,” he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
But Morrison also drew criticism for saying he understood the allegations better after considering them as a father of two girls.
The woman, then 24, was a few weeks into a new job with Defence Industry Minister Linda Reynolds when she went out for drinks with a group including her alleged attacker, an older male colleague.
She said she was offered her a lift home by the man at the end of the night, but instead he took her to Parliament House.
The woman said she was drunk and fell asleep in the minister’s office, before waking to find the man sexually assaulting her.
“I woke up mid-rape essentially,” she told Network Ten. “I started crying… I told him to stop.”
She said the man left immediately afterwards.
After informing her employer, she felt Reynolds’ office tried to “manage” the situation, downplaying her trauma.
“It felt like I became… it immediately became a political problem,” she said.
The woman said Ms Reynolds told her she would be supported if she pursued a police complaint, but she felt pressured not to, believing it would end her career.
She said the meeting with the minister was also held in the room where the alleged attack took place.
“There was a loop happening in my mind of this trauma that I’d just sort of come to terms with and I thought it was unfathomable that they would put me in such a place again,” she said.
She also said her alleged attacker had been considered a “rising star” of the party. She worked for another minister in Morrison’s Liberal Party before quitting politics.
Morrison said such an event “should not have happened”, saying it would spark a review of the complaints procedure in parliament.
The Prime Minister also announced a review into the professional culture of parliament, saying problems crossed over party lines.
“I want to make sure that any young woman working in this place is as safe as possible,” he said.