Guards ‘unlocked door’ for alleged rapist
The former director of security operations at Parliament House quit his job in the wake of the "tragic" alleged rape of Brittany Higgins after raising concerns over how the matter was handled.
News.com.au understands that Peter Butler, a former sworn New South Wales Special Constable through his work with transit police and in the NSW Sheriff's office, has raised concerns over the March 23, 2019 incident for years.
A secret parliamentary inquiry into security at Parliament House has spent months canvassing how the alleged rape was handled, receiving confidential submissions from former and current security guards.
Security officers who are aware of the circumstances on the night of the alleged rape have told news.com.au that they checked on Ms Higgins' welfare in the early morning of March 23, 2019 for two reasons.
The first reason is stunning. On the night in question, they say the male staffer who took an intoxicated Ms Higgins to Parliament House did not have a key to the office.
A whistleblower claims that security officers from the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) not only signed the pair in without security passes but opened the door to then-Defence Industry Minister Linda Reynolds's office for the male staffer, allowing him to take Ms Higgins inside.
Because the security officers had not only allowed the pair to enter the building but had indeed even unlocked the office at the male staffer's request, they had a duty of care to ensure the office was properly secured after the pair left.
But CCTV that is continuously monitored 24 hours a day in Parliament House showed the male staffer leaving with no sign of the woman.
"Two went in, but only one came out,'' a former security officer told news.com.au.
This is the second reason security officers returned to Senator Reynolds's office to determine what had happened to the woman who had been brought in "falling down drunk" and barely able to sign her own name.
They found Ms Higgins disorientated and half-naked in the Defence Minister's office, where she had been left by the male staffer who had brought her there.
Despite this, it appears there was no immediate sense from the DPS that a sexual crime may have been committed.
In the morning, discussions were had over whether the office should be cleaned before people returned to work on Monday.
But there was disagreement over whether this should have occurred.
This caused friction between DPS bureaucrats and those who raised concerns over whether this was the correct course of action.
Parliament's former security director Mr Butler told news.com.au that he could not comment on any of the specifics outlined but he was happy to cooperate with any future inquiries.
"In my previous role as the Director Security Operations for DPS at the time of this tragic incident, I provided assistance to Police undertaking certain inquiries," he said.
"As this is an ongoing matter I may be called upon to provide further assistance to the authorities so it would be inappropriate for me to comment further and potentially compromise any potential inquiries or investigation."
"Also as an ongoing Commonwealth Public Servant I am unable to make any comments on this matter to the media."
It is the divisions within DPS over the decision to call in cleaners that led to complaints being made to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the subsequent investigation into whether a potential crime scene had been tampered with by cleaners.
The DPS says the AFP investigation found that because it did not know at the time it was a potential sexual assault that no "criminality" was involved in the clean.
"The AFP has advised DPS that it had conducted enquiries into the action of DPS staff in the initial handling of the incident, including whether there was any criminality identified, such as attempts to conceal or interfere with a suspected crime scene,'' the DPS spokesman said.
"The AFP advised that there were no disclosures of sexual assault made by the complainant on the day of the incident and therefore actions taken by them (DPS) were not in response with a suspected crime".
The DPS also reveals in the statement that they entered Senator Reynolds's on the weekend in question to clean it "at the request of the Department of Finance" which is responsible for managing the ministerial wing.
This was immediately after the DPS informed the Department of Finance that two staffers had been found after hours in breach of the rules.
"DPS advised the Department of Finance, administrator of the Ministerial Wing of APH, on the morning of the incident,'' a DPS spokesman told news.com.au.
"At the request of the Department of Finance, DPS cleaners were granted access to the suite to conduct a routine office clean on the late afternoon of 23 March 2019."
The Prime Minister has commissioned West Australian Liberal MP Celia Hammond, the former vice-chancellor of Notre Dame University in Perth, to examine the workplace culture within the Coalition and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet deputy secretary Stephanie Foster, Deputy Secretary for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, will review the process of making workplace complaints.
Originally published as Guards 'unlocked door' for alleged rapist