Guide to the Parliament House Crisis: What organisations can do to manage their reputations

Best Practice Guide

Crisis shakes Parliament House

In an era dominated by the worst pandemic and most severe economic downturn in a century, onlookers would be forgiven for discounting the possibility of additional shocks to the system. Crises, however, have a way of rewiring popular expectations; and boy, has crisis come for the highest echelons of Australia’s political establishment.

In February 2021, an interview with former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins aired on Channel 10 show, The Project. During it, Higgins alleged that she had been raped less than a year ago by a senior colleague in the party.

The assault, she alleged, had occurred in Parliament House, in the office of her former boss, then-Defence Minister Lisa Reynolds. Higgins also claimed that instead of encouraging her to come forward with the allegation, the party had pressured her not to speak out or go to the police; the pressure, she averred, had led her to drop charges with the police.

What then compelled Higgins to come forward? Although prepared to remain quiet, Higgins says she saw Prime Minister Scott Morrison standing on a podium with the Australian of the Year and sexual assault survivor, Grace Tam; the perceived hypocrisy forced her hand.

The Higgins allegation was a bombshell. Still, more was to come; the story took on fresh life when further allegations emerged that Reynolds herself had referred to Higgins as a “lying cow”.

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