PM’s team probed over alleged rape knowledge
The jobs of staff in Scott Morrison's office could be on the line if an internal probe finds they misled the Prime Minister about their knowledge of an alleged rape in Parliament House.
Leaked text messages published by The Australian showed a Liberal staffer talking to alleged victim Brittany Higgins about contacting the Prime Minister's office within a fortnight of the incident in 2019.
The staffer said his colleague in the Prime Minister's office was "mortified to hear about it and how things have been handled", and that he would discuss it with his chief of staff.
On Friday, Mr Morrison said the messages would be considered in an investigation by his departmental secretary.
"I've received the advice from my office and I've asked my department to actually look into that advice so I can be assured," he said.
"I would like to know if there was anything different here … I want to know."
Senior minister Peter Dutton said Mr Morrison was "angry" at his staff behind the scenes this week, and that "if he has been misled, then that's a different level for him to deal with".
Government sources suggested disciplinary action would be taken if the Prime Minister's staff knew of the incident - prior to Ms Higgins sharing her story publicly - and failed to inform him.
Mr Morrison had already criticised Ms Higgins's boss at the time, defence industry minister Linda Reynolds, for failing to alert him.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese accused Mr Morrison of "dissembling" about his knowledge of the incident, saying his explanation of who knew what "just defies belief".
"It's not credible that the Prime Minister continues to say that his office only found out about it this week," he said.
But Mr Morrison said he had "sought to be as open and honest as I can be" about the "devastating" case.
"I've told you everything I know about this matter and I will continue to," he said.
It came as Mr Morrison's chief of staff John Kunkel contacted all government MPs, senators and staffers on Friday to offer support services after "recent events have taken a toll on many who work in Parliament House".
After Ms Higgins said she was made to feel like a "political problem", Mr Kunkel said "no member of staff should feel that their employment would be threatened by reporting a serious incident to police, or by raising any workplace concern through formal channels".
He said that while politics was a "complex, demanding and unique environment", there was "no excuse for bad behaviour".
Originally published as PM's team probed over alleged rape knowledge