Security guard ‘found Brittany Higgins naked’
A Parliament House security guard says she found Brittany Higgins naked in the office of then defence industry minister Linda Reynolds on the night the former Liberal staffer was allegedly raped.
Security guard Nikola Anderson told the ABC's Four Corners program that Ms Higgins was clearly intoxicated when she entered the building around 2am with the man who is alleged to have raped her in March 2019.
Ms Anderson said around 3am she and a colleague notified the night shift team leader "there might've been something a bit strange going on" after the man Ms Higgins was with left in a hurry and appeared to be "acting strangely".
She was then asked by her team leader to do a welfare check on Ms Higgins.
"As I approached Minister Reynold's office, I opened the door and announced myself. So, yelling, 'Security. Hello. Security, security' … just so that she was aware that I was there," she said.
"I got no response whatsoever," Ms Anderson told Four Corners.
Ms Anderson told Four Corners she then pushed open the office door.
"As I've opened the door, I've noticed that the female was lying on her back, completely naked, on the lounge that was adjacent to the door, for which I've gone, 'Oh'," she told Four Corners.
Ms Anderson thought Ms Higgins was "just sleeping off her night" and told Four Corners she "made sure her dignity was intact" by closing the door.
"I made sure her dignity was intact by shutting this door... I was trying to do the right thing by keeping her dignity intact," she told Four Corners.
The new details emerged after an independent probe into which members of the Prime Minister's office knew about the Brittany Higgins rape allegation was suspended.
The federal opposition has been grilling the government over the findings of an inquiry run by Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Phil Gaetjens.
It investigated the government's response to Ms Higgins's claim she was raped in Parliament House in 2019. The claim is also the subject of an Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigation.
In a Senate estimates hearing on Monday, Mr Gaetjens said he was advised by AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw on March 9 to hold off finalising records of interviews with staff.
"I was strongly advised … to make sure that there was no intersection with the criminal investigation, and as a result, I have decided to pause the inquiry," Mr Gaetjens said.
"As a result I have put on hold the process of finalising documentation of my inquiries and the preparation of a report to the Prime Minister.
"Both the commissioner and I are concerned that we do nothing that could prejudice the outcome of the police investigation."
Mr Gaetjens said he told Mr Morrison on March 9 when staff in the Prime Minister's office also became aware.
But last week Mr Morrison told the parliament that Mr Gaetjens had "not provided me with a further update about when I might expect that report".
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham told the committee that all other inquiries, such as Stephanie Foster's work into support services for issues of bullying, sexual harassment or sexual assault, were still ongoing.
"The work of Mr Gaetjens is the only one that has been paused," Senator Birmingham said.
"It is also the only one that has a backwards-looking element."
It came after Mr Kershaw faced a grilling of his own on Monday when he conceded he was concerned the Gaetjens probe "might" hamper the AFP's investigation.
"I'm particularly concerned about the intersection of his inquiry with our investigation," he said.
"It's not helpful at all and it's also quite a risky undertaking. For example, even matters reported in the media can affect a fair outcome."
But Mr Kershaw insisted he had not asked Mr Gaetjens to alter, slow or pause that inquiry.
"While I have the terms of reference, we're not embedded in that inquiry nor would we want to be," he said.
The government was forced to deny attempting "a cover-up" over the Higgins allegation during an ill-tempered beginning to Senate estimates.
Labor spent the first morning of Senate estimates grilling the government over its handling of Ms Higgins's alleged rape.
The Opposition was outraged when Liberal senator Sarah Henderson attempted to wrap Labor home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally up as she questioned Mr Kershaw over the allegation.
A chunk of Ms Keneally's time was swallowed up by procedural issues, which she accused Ms Henderson of hiding behind to prevent Labor from pursuing the Higgins matter.
"You know it looks like you are seeking to shut down questions from opposition senators," she said.
"Not at all, senator. I'm just asking you to respect the fact that we are sharing the call and all senators are meant to ask questions," Senator Henderson said.
Senator Keneally responded that explanation was "a bit rich" given Senator Henderson was attempting to limit the number of questions Labor could ask.
Committee deputy chair and Labor senator Kim Carr exploded at Senator Henderson's intervention, saying estimates were designed to give the opposition time to explore its own questions.
"This is your first meeting (as chair). If you want to blow up the committee keep going the way you are!" Senator Carr said.
Meanwhile, in the finance and public administration hearing, Senate president Scott Ryan took questions related to Ms Higgins's rape allegations on notice, saying he did not want to complicate a "serious police investigation".
The Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) has been assisting the federal police with the "information gathering" but would not provide a timeline of its response to the alleged incident.
Secretary Rob Stefanic said less than a dozen people within the department knew the details of what happened on the night of March 23, including a few parliamentary officers who had seen the CCTV.
Mr Stefanic refused to answer several questions, including about entry to the building, given the ongoing police investigation.
The move prompted Senator Ryan to step in, saying they would claim public interest immunity if advice did not allow them to answer.
"It is very frustrating that … you weren't in a position to come prepared with what you were able to say because it looks like a cover-up, Mr President," Labor senator Katy Gallagher said.
"There is public interest in this and the blanket refusal to answer does not look great."
Earlier, Labor senator Kimberley Kitching asked Senator Ryan if he had spoken to the speaker, Ms Higgins's then-boss senator Linda Reynolds or her office, the Prime Minister or his office, the AFP or the clerk.
"I'll take advice," he said.
"A number of these matters I could easily answer off top of my head.
"If they don't complicate anything I can answer very, very quickly."
Senator Ryan was also asked if he wished the investigation had been treated as seriously two years ago as it was being treated now.
He said he was "not at liberty" to provide his personal observations on revelations aired publicly in the past month.
"At all times, I think that the speaker and myself had handled it appropriately," Senator Ryan said.
Senator Ryan said he did not expect to see a copy of Mr Gaetjens' investigation, adding he was not a member of the executive.
The committee was told presiding officers gave verbal permission for the AFP to access the CCTV footage on April 8, 2019.
Senator Ryan said he and speaker Tony Smith had reflected on the procedures around signing people into parliament.
However, he said senators and members were entitled to set the conditions of access to their own office.
EX-HOUSEMATE OF RAPE-ACCUSED SAYS HE HARASSED HER
A woman that lived with a former Liberal staffer accused of raping his colleague, Brittany Higgins, at Parliament House in Canberra claims she was sexually harassed by the man.
Kriti Gupta, a 24-year-old marketing professional, lived with the man from October 2019 to February 2020.
She said she only found out her former housemate was the man at the centre of the alleged Parliament rape on March 10 and spoke to police investigating the matter last week.
"I just kept thinking about all the times he touched me and made me uncomfortable, all the times he was sexually suggestive in our old Instagram messages," Ms Gupta toldThe Australian.
Ms Gupta said the man sexually harassed her about once a fortnight and only after he'd been drinking.
"The first couple of days (of being housemates) it was OK, the first week or so, but after that he quickly, whenever he drank, he got into that habit," she said.
"It was never when he was sober. It made me feel unsafe in my own home. He sat close to me on the couch, rubbing my knee, barging into my room demanding we go out and take drugs.
"I made a quick rule we would never get drunk together."
Ms Gupta claims in December 2019, the man tried to enter her bedroom at 3am while he was drunk and "demanded" sex.
"I pushed him out of the room. I was leaving half an hour after that for a flight so I was already half awake when he came in," she told The Australian.
"I slammed the door shut and pushed my suitcase up against the door. By the time I left half an hour later he was fast asleep."
Higgins went public with the matter in February 15 and formally reported the incident to the AFP days later.
The AFP has interviewed a number of people but no charges have been laid against the man.
Originally published as Security guard 'found Brittany Higgins naked'