Scott Morrison’s office says that “due to a previous role” the advisor was aware of the departure of the staff member involved in the security breach

Scott Morrison’s office admitted that another current adviser to the Prime Minister was aware of the dismissal of a staff member in Linda Reynolds’ office who allegedly raped Brittany Higgins in 2019 because of their ‘previous role’

Morrison has repeatedly said his office first learned of the rape allegation on February 12 But one of the Prime Minister’s current employees, Fiona Brown, was aware of the allegation because she subsequently dealt with Higgins while working as Reynolds’ chief of staff

Brown worked for Morrison before working for Reynolds, who was then Minister of Defense Industry, then returned to Morrison’s office after the 2019 election

Guardian Australia has now confirmed that a second staff member currently employed in the Prime Minister’s office is aware of the details of the dismissal of Higgins’ former colleague as this senior staff member was previously employed as an advisor to Alex Hawke when Hawke was Special Minister of State

In response to questions from Guardian Australia, a spokesperson for Morrison said: “Due to a previous role, the advisor was aware of the dismissal of the staff member involved in the security breach in the office. Linda Reynolds in March 2019″

Morrison’s spokesperson acknowledged that the adviser had “briefed the PM’s office on this termination process.” Advice on dismissing the staff member, the PM’s spokesman said, has been provided to Morrison’s office while working for Hawke

It’s unclear – as the government has refused to answer questions about it – whether the staff member alleged to have assaulted Higgins left the government with severance pay

Confirmation that another current member of Morrison’s office had some knowledge of the controversy came when the PM declined to say whether he would release an imminent report from his department head, Phil Gaetjens, examining everything contact between members of his office and Higgins – a former member of the liberal staff

As Morrison refrained from releasing the Gaetjens report, the CBA reported that a fourth woman showed up to Canberra Police over the weekend with a new, inappropriate and touching complaint against the same member government alleged assaulting Higgins and two other women

At Question Time on Monday, Labor leader Anthony Albanese asked the Prime Minister if he would guarantee that the report by the Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department and the Cabinet “and his former chief of staff Philip Gaetjens” would be made public upon receipt

Albanese also asked if the head of Morrison’s department would interview the prime minister “and anyone in the prime minister’s office who may have had contact related to the reported sexual assault”

Morrison bypassed the details of the question “The secretary of the Prime Minister’s and Cabinet’s Department is investigating and initiating them with the relevant members of my office, and I look forward to receiving his report,” said the Prime Minister

“I look forward to receiving his report, as I also look forward to receiving any recommendations that would come from the Deputy Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department and the Cabinet and look forward to reporting on these matters to this instant “

In response to lingering questions from the Labor Party as to whether it was now “beyond belief” that Morrison’s office was not aware of the assault allegations until February 12 , the Prime Minister reiterated his previous opinion that he had been made aware of the allegations concerning February 15 “and my staff became aware of these cases of sexual assault on February 12”

At the end of last week, new texts were reported by the Australian suggesting that a friend of Higgins contacted the Prime Minister’s office to alert them to the mismanagement of her case in early April 2019

After the texts were published and after Higgins said that one of Morrison’s top political advisers, Yaron Finkelstein, had also “checked in” with her when ABC’s Four Corners broadcast a Parliament’s culture survey in 2020, Morrison said Gaetjens should check staff communications

Morrison said last week that his staff’s advice was that they were made aware of the assault allegation on February 12, but he said: “I would like to know, if there was something different here, I would like to know “

In addition to Brown having detailed knowledge and Monday’s confirmation that another adviser had first-hand knowledge of the termination agreements involving the alleged perpetrator, the government acknowledged that Morrison’s chief of staff, John Kunkel, and fellow parliamentary adviser Daniel Wong were implicated as the alleged perpetrator was fired by Reynolds for security breach after entering the after-hours ministerial office

But the government previously said neither Kunkel nor Wong was aware of the sexual assault allegation

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, meanwhile, was asked in the Senate about how he handled separate assault allegations from Chelsey Potter, a young staff member who had worked in his office

In the Adelaide-based publication InDaily, Potter said: “There has never been a recording. No coaching offer, whether professional or personal. To date [Birmingham] has even not bother to check my version of events “

Birmingham told the Senate he first learned of Potter’s allegations when reporters from the Sydney Morning Herald approached his office He said Potter had also approached him between first media contact and the story’s publication.

He said he told Potter he was unable to speak to him at the time, but recommended support services, as 1800 RESPECT Birmingham said he hoped the independent review triggered by Higgins case would improve understanding of how to handle episodes like this

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News from the world – UA – Second staff member aware of firing of man accused of rape Brittany higgins