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Morrison says Coalition staffer sacked after 'disgusting' allegation

  • Written by Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

The government has immediately sacked a staffer after Network Ten reported on Monday that a Coalition whistleblower had provided photographs and videos recorded inside Parliament House “of men engaged in blatant sex acts”.

The Coalition staffers filmed themselves and shared the videos, the report said.

Ten aired (distorted) images. It said one showed a man pointing to the desk of a female Liberal MP and then performing a “solo sex act on it”.

“One of the government staffers featured in the videos we have seen says publicly that he works closely with the prime minister’s office and the leader of the house’s office,” the report said. The leader of the house is Christian Porter.

The whistleblower, “Tom,” (not his real name) claimed staffers had procured “rent boys” to come to Parliament House for Coalition MPs.

He also said “a lot” of sex occurred in Parliament House’s meditation room.

Morrison said in a statement on Monday night the reports aired by Ten “are disgusting and sickening”.

“It’s not good enough, and is totally unacceptable,” he said.

“The actions of these individuals show a staggering disrespect for the people who work in parliament, and for the ideals the parliament is supposed to represent.

"My government has identified the staff member at the centre of these allegations and has terminated his employment immediately.” This is the man who committed the sex act on the MP’s desk.

Morrison said: “I urge anybody with further information to come forward”.

He said he’d have “more to say on this and the cultural issues we confront as a parliament in coming days”.

This is the second federal government staffer in under a week who has been sacked for gross sexist behaviour. Last week Andrew Hudgson, media adviser to the Assistant Treasurer, Michael Sukkar, was dismissed immediately after Tasmanian Greens leader Cassy O'Connor told the state parliament he had called her a “meth-head c***” in 2019 when he worked for the then Tasmanian premier Will Hodgman.

The Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, is currently conducting an inquiry into the Parliament House workplace.

Meanwhile a parliamentary security guard on Monday night challenged Morrison’s claim a security breach was committed when Brittany Higgins and the colleague she alleged raped her entered minister Linda Reynolds office in the early hours in March 2019.

Morrison has said the man, who was dismissed within days, had been sacked “because of a security breach. That was the reason for it. As I understand it, it related to the entry into those [office] premises.”

But Nikola Anderson, the security guard who opened the door of the office for the pair, said on the ABC’s 4 Corners, “What was the security breach? Because the night that we were on shift, there was no security breach. Because these two people worked for minister Reynolds, they were allowed access in there, which is why we granted it.”

She was at the security check-in point where they entered the building, before she took them to Reynolds office. Both had active passes although they were not carrying them, so they were given temporary ones (the normal practice in Parliament House when a passholder does not have their pass with them).

Asked why Morrison would have said this was a security breach and that was why the man was sacked, Anderson said, “Because he’s been given false information”. She said she was one of the only people who knew what happened and nobody had asked her anything.

Anderson said after the man left the building hastily by himself she went to check on the woman’s welfare.

She opened the door to the minister’s personal office to find Higgins lying on her back on the couch, completely naked. Higgins had opened her eyes, then rolled over onto her side.

“So therefore my take on it was, she’s conscious, she’s breathing, she doesn’t look like she’s in distress.”

Higgins has said she was drunk and fell asleep on the couch, to awake “mid-rape.”

Anderson said she told her team leader what she had found and asked him whether she should wake Higgins “because it’s a no-no to sleep in parliament house”.

“But given the nature of the situation and the fact that she was completely naked, I think his call on it was just let her sleep it off, leave her there.”

Anderson said she was told to be discreet about the incident. “We were told to keep it under wraps and not to make it common knowledge.”

There is now a police investigation into Higgins’ allegation she was raped, after she recently laid a complaint.

Anderson was contacted by ACT police a week ago.

Asked why she was speaking out publicly, Anderson said it was because “I’m fearful for my job, and I don’t want to be used as DPS’s [Department of Parliamentary Services] scapegoat. And the truth does have to come out. I mean, I’m sick of seeing all of these news reports with inaccurate information because it is wrong.”

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