According to Scott Morrison, he was the last to know about the allegations raised by Brittany Higgins. However, the timeline of events suggests something else entirely.
CW: The following piece discusses sexual violence
If there’s one thing that we now know about Scott Morrison, it’s that a huge amount of people whose job it is to advise and support him keep an awful lot of very important information away from him. Weirdly, a large amount of that information appears to be about the treatment of women in his government.
After all, he was entirely oblivious to the widespread and systematic bullying of female Coalition MPs, despite one MP quitting the party over it (Julia Banks) and a minister declining to stand for re-election after presenting him with a report about it (Kelly O’Dwyer), which he apparently somehow missed.
But this vast and sinister parliamentary conspiracy of people refusing to alert Morrison to the treatment of women in the Morrison government isn’t limited to female members of parliament who specifically told him about it.
MPs, ministers, staffers, parliamentary security, the police, the AFP and members of Morrison’s own office all apparently conspired to keep him in the dark about the attack on Brittany Higgins by a colleague in a ministerial office. In fact, so vast and labyrinthine is this conspiracy that you could almost be forgiven for thinking that the PM is barefacedly dodging responsibility while making denials which Shaggy himself would have deemed laughably unconvincing.
But let’s unravel this mystery by outlining the things Morrison didn’t know and when he didn’t know them, shall we?
22 March 2019
Brittany Higgins, a young female advisor in the office of Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, is offered a lift home by a senior colleague after a night out drinking. Instead, he takes her to Parliament House, is let in by security, and allegedly rapes the near-comatose Higgins before leaving her in the office to be discovered, disoriented and dishevelled, by security the following morning.
Parliament House, whose guards were cool to let the couple in and then let the now-alone male staffer out without blinking an eye, declares this a security breach.
The Department of Finance calls in the cleaners to steam clean the ministers office for no particular reason on 23 March: a Sunday.
24 March 2019
Both Higgins and the alleged perpetrator are called into separate meetings over the security breach.
Higgins is questioned by Reynolds’ acting chief of staff, Fiona Brown, in the exact same room in which she was attacked. Brown is on secondment from the office of the Prime Minister, to which she later returns and reportedly remains entirely mute.
1 April 2019
Despite there having already been meetings about the incident, this is the date when Reynolds first finds out about the attack (according to Reynolds) and also doesn’t mention it to the PM (according to the PM).
The alleged perpetrator is fired that day, taking a job with a Sydney PR firm under unclear circumstances. Reynolds later denies writing a reference for him “to the best of (her) recollection”.
According to Scott Morrison, no-one thinks to mention this to Scott Morrison, despite him being the Prime Minister of Australia, leader of the Federal Liberal Party which employs both Higgins and her alleged attacker, the boss of Linda Reynolds and direct supervisor of Brown.
Another staffer in Morrison’s office is also confirmed to have known about the incident and also apparently never mentioned it to the PM.
Higgins goes to Canberra police a week later, who tell her that they’re having trouble getting the CCTV footage of the attack from Parliament House for some reason.
13 April 2019
After being informed that she would not be able to keep her job if she proceeded with her complaint against her ex-colleague, and with the just-called federal election happening in May, Higgins’ complaint is withdrawn.
Also April 2019
A staffer in the Prime Minister’s Office confirms to Higgins that they have spoken to the PMO, who are “mortified” and are talking to the PM’s chief of staff.
Morrison will later deny any such conversation took place, prompting Higgins to release the text messages. Later, the PMO will claim that oh, actually yes, there was a discussion but that no-one mentioned that it was about a sexual assault. What exactly they were mortified about in that case was not disclosed. The weather, maybe?
Higgins moves to Michaelia Cash’s office.
Two young female Liberal staffers, Chelsea Potter and Dhanya Mani, go public about being sexually assaulted by colleagues.
Apparently, this very public discussion about young female staffers being preyed upon by senior colleagues in the Liberal Party and the Morrison government doesn’t jog anyone’s memory about that similar thing which happened a few months earlier, since no-one thinks to mention it to Scott Morrison.
In any case, the Morrison government promises there will be changes made to address the safety of staffers and the culture within the party and the government, which seems only to manifest in the ending of Potter and Mani’s political careers.
A media enquiry about the alleged attack on Higgins is made to Reynolds’ office. Again, according to the PM, no-one thinks that the fact the media are clearly aware of a federal Liberal staffer sexually assaulting another federal Liberal staffer is worth bothering Morrison about.
Cash will deny knowing anything about any incident, until a voicemail message from her to Higgins offering support is released in February 2021.
Cash’s COS reportedly meets with Higgins and promises to quash the story (which Morrison, again, doesn’t know anything about, honest).
Now a lobbyist, the alleged rapist reportedly attends a function at Parliament House: “a small, private event associated with the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook’s Endeavour voyage”, a pet project of Scott Morrison who obviously knew nothing about anything at this point.
When this comes to light in February 2021 the Prime Minister’s Office refuses to confirm whether or not he was there because it’s reportedly fiendishly hard to search sign-in sheets for complex things like “people’s names”.
Sometime In 2020
A second Liberal Party staffer is allegedly raped by the same perpetrator, in circumstances horribly similar to Higgins.
November 9(ish) 2020
Scott Morrison’s principal private secretary Yaron Finkelstein gives Higgins a call to “check-in” after the Four Corners programme about sexual mistreatment of staff in the Morrison government airs. In February, Morrison will deny that it happened, claims that there’s no phone record of such a call, and then denies that he knew anything about it.
In any case, this second very public discussion about young female staffers being preyed upon by senior colleagues in the Liberal Party and the Morrison government doesn’t jog anyone’s memory about that similar thing which happened in 2019, and yet again no-one thinks to mention it to Scott Morrison.
5 February 2021
12 February 2021
Morrison’s office is reported to have been made aware of the allegations for the first time – presumably following a wave of amnesia among the staff who already knew.
February 15 2021
Scott Morrison finally finds out that a staffer reported being raped in Reynolds’ office by a colleague, but only because it’s in News.com.au and on The Project because, just to be clear, absolutely no one had so much as alluded to for the previous two years within his hearing.
Apparently unsure about how to react to the shocking and entirely-new information, he tells the press that he’d run it by his wife Jen who told him to imagine that it was one of his daughters. This apparently clarifies things and he expresses his disgust at the matter “as a husband and father” – rather than, say, as a Prime Minister, employer, Liberal Party member, parliamentarian or person with a human soul.
When confronted by evidence that his staff evidently knew before 12 February, Morrison promised to hold an investigation into what he and his staff knew and when. When asked if the report from the said investigation would be made public, Morrison declined to answer.
16 February 2021
As a husband and father, Morrison publicly rebukes Reynolds for absolutely not telling him about the alleged attack on Higgins. Meanwhile, another former Liberal Party staffer comes forward about being attacked by the same man, using a very similar MO.
22 February 2021
The former Liberal Party staffer attacked in 2020 comes forward.
A fourth woman comes forward claiming to have been attacked in 2016. As a husband and father, Morrison expresses regrets about all these allegations about which he totes wasn’t aware.
24 February 2021
Reynolds cancels her scheduled appearance at the National Press Club and checks into hospital. As a husband and father, Morrison wishes her a speedy recovery.
25 February 2021
Scott Morrison gives a speech at a women’s Day breakfast event, announcing that “protecting must be a key part of our actions if we are to protect and protect against the consequences of disrespect.” Since this was an event in Parliament House regarding women’s wellbeing, exactly how he discovered the event was even happening could not be confirmed at press time.