Former liberal staff member Brittany Higgins has had a difficult year. Since coming forward with the allegations she was raped by a colleague in a minister’s office two years ago, the 26-year-old has faced intense media scrutiny and been in the spotlight of the national conversation. Last week, she officially met with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who many have roundly criticised for his government’s handling of the situation and her own personal tone-deaf, patriarchal remarks.
Per the ABC, Higgins said her conversation with Morrison was “very difficult on a personal level.” She also noted that Morrison had “acknowledged the system had let me down.”
During the meeting, Higgins said she and Morrison had discussed reforming the legislation that government staffers are employed under, the Members of Parliament (Staff) or MoPS Act.
Under this act, MPs are able to sack their employees on the spot if they lose trust in them. As well as the wider culture of sexism and the ‘old boys club’ mentality that recent events have brought under scrutiny, Higgins has pointed to this legislation in particular as contributing to dangerous power imbalances.
“We had a discussion about what needs to happen in terms of the MoPS Act, where there needs to be better safeguards,” Higgins said, noting that the legislation did nothing to protect employees with complaints.
“We had a robust discussion about the need for an independent authority [for] human resources […] ultimately, in the end, I think there was a consensus that reform needs to happen. I think that’s where we need to be, that’s a starting point and that is encouraging.”
For his part, Morrison released a statement which said he was glad to meet with Ms Higgins and “listen to her views on how we can make parliamentary workplaces safe and more respectful.”
Morrison noted that he was looking forward to Higgins’ participation in the Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces, adding that her “views and experience will be invaluable to the work of (Sex Discrimination) Commissioner Kate Jenkins.”
At this stage, Morrison has said that he’s committed to achieving an independent process to deal with these difficult issues. Meanwhile, an investigation is underway into Higgins’ alleged rape.