Scott Morrison’s office was made aware of the alleged rape of former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins less than two weeks after the incident, a court has been told.
Bruce Lehrmann is accused of raping Ms Higgins in Linda Reynolds’ ministerial office at Parliament House after drinking with work colleagues in March 2019.
He has pleaded not guilty to sexual intercourse without her consent and being reckless to her consent.
On Wednesday, the court was told ex-boyfriend Ben Dillaway had informed a member of the then prime minister’s office in the hope of speeding up her access to support services.
“This was at a stage where, from my recollection, she was struggling significantly, wasn’t coping very well with things,” he told the court.
“She’d tried to see a psychiatrist and the wait was two months or three months or something and I said, ‘Let me discreetly go speak to someone in the Prime Minister’s office because surely this can move things along, or surely this will get you the help you need’.”
Mr Dillaway, also a former Liberal staffer, told the court he spoke to Julian Leembruggen about the incident on April 3, 2019 with Ms Higgins’ permission.
“I reassured her many times that she would not lose her job. That she was a victim here and she had nothing to be worried about,” he said.
Last week, Ms Higgins told the court while she “trusted and really adored” her ex she “didn’t entirely trust him”.
“He was … a senior media adviser to a Liberal cabinet minister, so I didn’t entirely trust him that it wouldn’t get back to one of his best friends, which is Julian Leembruggen, who was in the prime minister’s office,” she said.
“So absolutely I disclosed some things to him, but I didn’t 100 per cent trust that, you know, all of my thoughts and feelings weren’t exactly going to get exactly straight back to, like, Liberal CHQ right before the election
The court has previously heard that then chief of staff Fiona Brown told Ms Higgins in the days after the incident she would have to advise the PMO of “these sorts of things” after asking her to re-sign a staff code of conduct.
“I was advised to take her through what those obligations were again … as I was doing that I said to her, ‘‘I’ll need you to have a look at this and just see if we understand, you know, why it’s serious,’ and at that point, you know, these sorts of things, if it’s of a really serious nature, I would advise the Prime Minister’s Office,” she told the court on Tuesday.
“She said she understood and that she would take that away (to sign).”
Last week, Ms Higgins told the court it was at this meeting that she disclosed the alleged sexual assault to Ms Brown.
The court heard two days later Ms Higgins had observed two other PMO staff – John Kunkle and Daniel Wong – “coming in and out” of the office prior to her second meeting with Ms Brown.
“At this point …. Fiona’s personal demeanour towards me had changed a lot,” she said.
“It was very apparent that the election stuff was like ramping up and I think … they wanted to also then start to deal with this in a different way so it wasn‘t sort of about my wellbeing.”
The trial continues.