Aussie PM promises probe into alleged rape in Parliament

CANBERRA • Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison apologised to a woman who alleged she was raped in the country's Parliament by an unnamed colleague, and promised a thorough investigation into the government's workplace culture.

The woman said she was raped in the office of Defence Minister Linda Reynolds in March 2019 by someone who also worked for Mr Morrison's ruling Liberal Party.

She told the local media that she spoke with the police in early April that year, but decided against making a formal complaint amid concerns about her career prospects. Police in the capital confirmed they had spoken to a complainant in April 2019, but she had chosen not to make a formal complaint.

The woman said she told senior staff in Ms Reynolds' office of the alleged attack. She said she was then asked to attend a meeting in the office where she says she was assaulted.

Ms Reynolds on Monday confirmed she was told of the complaint last year, though she denied that the woman was pressured against making a police complaint.

Mr Morrison yesterday apologised to the woman and promised an investigation.

"That should not have happened, and I do apologise," he told reporters in Canberra. "I want to make sure any young woman working in this place is as safe as possible."

Ms Reynolds echoed Mr Morrison in apologising a few hours later. "Saying sorry is often the hardest thing for those of us who work in this place to say," she told lawmakers. "But can I say today, 'sorry' is the easiest word for me to say."

Ms Reynolds was the defence industry minister at the time of the alleged rape, and became defence minister two months later.

Mr Morrison said he has tasked Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet official Stephanie Foster with reviewing the process in dealing with workplace complaints, while a backbench lawmaker will investigate workplace culture.

The allegation has intensified pressure on Mr Morrison after a series of allegations of improper behaviour towards women within the Liberal Party.

In 2019, female backbench lawmakers said they felt bullied to back a move to oust then Premier Malcolm Turnbull, while a female former Liberal staff member last year made an official complaint over improper behaviour by then Immigration Minister Alan Tudge, who has denied the allegation.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2021, with the headline 'Aussie PM promises probe into alleged rape in Parliament'. Subscribe