'Few protections': Brittany Higgins calls for wide review of staffer working conditions

Brittany Higgins, the former staffer who says she was raped in a ministerial office of Parliament House two years ago, has called for a review of the working conditions of parliamentary staffers, saying she wants a voice in how such a review is undertaken.

"I am determined to drive significant reform in the way the Australian Parliament handles issues of this nature and treats ministerial and parliamentary staff more generally," Ms Higgins said in a statement released late on Friday afternoon.

Parliament has been rocked this week by the allegation by Ms Higgins that she was raped by a fellow Liberal staffer in the office of then defence industry minister Linda Reynolds in March 2019. Since the allegation was first reported on Monday questions have been raised about the government's response to the alleged assault, and who knew about it and when.

On Friday Ms Higgins said she had made the decision to re-engage with the Australian Federal Police on her complaint, something she said she felt she couldn't do at the time of the alleged assault without threatening her career.

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins says she wants to drive real change for staffers across the divide. Picture: Supplied

Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins says she wants to drive real change for staffers across the divide. Picture: Supplied

She has also called for an independent investigation of how the matter was handled inside the government.

"I believe that getting to the bottom of what happened to me and how the system failed me is critical to creating a new framework for political staff that ensures genuine cultural change and restores the trust of staff," Ms Higgins said.

Ms Higgins added her voice to the calls for system-wide reform into working conditions for parliamentary staffers, who work under rules where they can be fired at any time.

"Political advisers have very few protections, resources and confidential reporting mechanisms to address any workplace issues. They are not public servants and work in an extremely high-pressure environment," Ms Higgins said.

"Too often, a toxic workplace culture can emerge that enables inappropriate conduct and this is exacerbated by the disparity in the power dynamics."

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Ms Higgins said such a review must be treated as a bipartisan issue and as Prime Minister Scott Morrison had said she should have "agency" going forward, she expected a voice in shaping such a review.

"It is important that the reform is real and drives change beyond dealing with just what happened to me, and how the system let me down."

Ms Higgins said she was driven by wishing to make sure no other staffers had an experience like hers.

"I was failed repeatedly, but I now have my voice, and I am determined to use to ensure that this is never allowed to happen to another member of staff again," she said.

This story 'Few protections': Brittany Higgins calls for wide review of staffer working conditions first appeared on The Canberra Times.