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Morrison Govt under pressure as sexual assault claims rise

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The Morrison government is facing intense scrutiny over how it handles sexual assault complaints after a fourth woman came forward alleging misconduct.

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Three women have come forward after Brittany Higgins alleged she was raped by a former Liberal Party staffer man, who was a fellow ministerial adviser, in 2019.

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds is under pressure over how she handled the allegation, made when Higgins was employed by her.

In Question Time, Senator Reynolds refused to answer a series of questions about a meeting with a federal police assistant commissioner about the alleged rape.

“What we discussed in those meetings is not my story to tell,” the minister said.

“I have always, and I continue, to respect her privacy and her story.”

Higgins said she was disgusted with that excuse.

“My privacy has been breached at every turn in this process,'” she told News Corp.

“I don’t think she’s ever respected my privacy, so her sudden concern for it now, I find patently false.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is maintaining his staff didn’t tell him about the allegation until days after media raised questions with his office.

“I look forward to the police progressing this matter and any other matters that may be related to this in terms of any other alleged offences, in relation to this individual,” he told parliament.

Greens leader Adam Bandt asked if the man accused of the assaults held a lobbyist pass or attended parliament after being sacked as a ministerial adviser.

The prime minister said records would be checked.

Labor’s upper house leader Penny Wong lashed the government’s response to Higgins.

“She wasn’t being treated as a human being. She wasn’t being treated as a rape survivor and she wasn’t being treated as a victim of a grave crime,” she told parliament.

“She was being treated as a political problem.”

Senator Wong said Morrison’s words rung hollow while there was no culture of accountability.

“We know that at best, Mr Morrison runs a government where the culture is don’t ask, don’t tell when it comes to serious criminal allegation,” she said.

“At worst, Mr Morrison himself is part of the cover-up.”

-with AAP

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