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Porter assault allegations inspired Higgins’ media interviews

Brittany Higgins, appearing as a witness for Network Ten, said she went public with her story after a media program accused former attorney-general Christian Porter of a history of sexist and inappropriate behaviour towards women.

user iconNaomi Neilson 30 November 2023 Big Law
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In November 2020, Four Corners aired allegations Mr Porter was “deeply sexist and actually misogynistic in his treatment of women” and had been warned by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull following an incident with a young woman in a bar.

Mr Porter was accused of rape months later and eventually stood down. He has strenuously denied all allegations.

Appearing in the Federal Court on Wednesday (29 November), Ms Higgins said she saw the Four Corners program and was “over it” and “angry” at how women were being treated in government.


Ms Higgins said this inspired her to do an interview on The Project where she alleged she had been raped in Parliament House two years earlier and was mistreated by senior staff and ministers.

“It was the trigger point, and I couldn’t be silent anymore,” she said.

“It wasn’t just me, there were so many people … and when it became clear there was a pattern, I couldn’t sit with it anymore.”

After The Project aired, it soon became public that Bruce Lehrmann, a former colleague of Ms Higgins, was the one accused of raping her following a night of drinking in Canberra.

Mr Lehrmann is now suing Network Ten and The Project host Lisa Wilkinson – who interviewed Ms Higgins – for defamation.

On her second day of evidence, Ms Higgins told the court she had moved from a state MP’s office on the Gold Coast to Parliament House in the hopes of stepping away from an administrative role so she could focus on her “dream” job of being a media adviser.

Instead, she said she found herself with similar administrative tasks – but this time also acting as Mr Lehrmann’s “secretary”.

On the night of 22 March, Ms Higgins said she was invited to meet an “exclusive” group who were known to go out together fortnightly.

She said she felt compelled to invite others around Parliament House, including Mr Lehrmann, in an effort to show she had these kinds of contacts and “wasn’t just a receptionist”.

Ms Higgins said she consumed 11 drinks on the night – which was “excessive and abnormal” for her – and by the time she arrived at Parliament House with Mr Lehrmann in the early hours of the next morning, she was allegedly too intoxicated to consent.

Ms Higgins clarified she was “very, very inebriated” and all she could remember was a brief interaction with security and sitting on the ledge inside the defence department’s suite of offices.

The next thing Ms Higgins said she remembers is waking up in Linda Reynolds’ office to find Mr Lehrmann allegedly raping her.

Ms Higgins said she told him “no on a loop” and thought she tried to scream but found it was “trapped in my throat”.

When Mr Lehrmann was done, Ms Higgins alleged he got up, looked at her and then left the office without a word.

Later, Ms Higgins told Dr Matt Collins KC through sobs that even if she had given Mr Lehrmann “the benefit of every doubt, how could he leave me like that” if the alleged sexual incident was consensual.

On the Monday morning following the alleged rape – and up until Mr Lehrmann was told to leave the office the following day – Ms Higgins said his manner had changed towards her.

In addition to bringing her a coffee, Mr Lehrmann sent two emails.

The first was sent the day of the alleged rape – although Ms Higgins said she did not open it until the Monday – and concerned Ms Higgins’ inability to receive emails to her personal address.

In the email, Mr Lehrmann wrote, “might see about getting you on this list or something”, and added an emoji smiling face.

“We never had a friendly social relationship, and suddenly after he [allegedly] raped me, there was some familiarity and a smiley face that I felt was undeserved. It gave me the heebies,” Ms Higgins said.

It was not until a meeting with a departmental liaison officer late the next week that Ms Higgins learnt a security guard had come into the office during the night and found her naked.

Having not heard this from anyone else in the days prior – and despite a number of meetings, including with chief of staff Fiona Brown – Ms Higgins said she had a “massive amount of mistrust”.

A meeting with Ms Reynolds also left her shaken as she had been asked to meet with her where the alleged rape occurred.

Ms Higgins alleged that during this meeting, Ms Reynolds said phrases like “these are things women go through” and if she decided to go to the police, “please keep the office informed”.

After this, Ms Higgins alleged Ms Reynolds “actively avoided me” and “wouldn’t go to any events with me”.

While Ms Brown at first appeared supportive and emphatic, Ms Higgins alleged her “tone changed” and conversations began to shift about Ms Higgins’ future job prospects.

Ms Higgins’ evidence continues.