It turns out that Peter Dutton‘s office was tipped off about an alleged sexual assault inside Parliament House as early as October 2019, well over year before Dutton claims to have personally learned about the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins, News.com.au reports.

When the rest of Australia learned about Higgins’ historic rape allegations earlier this year, politicians tripped over themselves to state how they didn’t know about it until it became national news.

That included Dutton, who said he was only told about the allegations on February 11 this year. He was the Minister for Home Affairs at the time.

Now, during Senate estimates, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) has responded on notice to a question asking when they first contacted the Dutton’s office about an incident in then-Defense Industry Minister Linda Reynolds’ office on 23 March, 2019.

“In accordance with routine practices, in October 2019 AFP Media notified the then Minister’s office in relation to a media enquiry received by ACT Policing, about an alleged sexual assault at Parliament House,” the AFP said.

This was just one day before News.com.au political editor Samantha Maiden put questions to the Prime Minister’s office about the allegations. Maiden finally broke the story in February of 2021.

However at the time, nobody from the police contacted Dutton personally. A spokesperson for the AFP has now confirmed to News.com.au that the first recorded contact with Dutton himself was, as he himself said, on February 11, 2021.

This raises heaps of questions about the communications within Dutton’s office, just as questions have been raised about who knew what, and when, within Scott Morrison’s office.

Why didn’t staffers alert Dutton as soon as police made them aware of rape allegations? Such a serious issue definitely seems like something a high-ranking member of the government should be across, especially when staff in their office are in the know.

Rape allegations are a big deal, and one would think they’re the kind of thing high-ranking members of the government should be across when staff within their office know.

The revelations came as the PM himself received the results of a report into the procedures relating to serious incidents inside Parliament House.

The report – comissioned by Morrison and undertaken by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Stephanie Foster – made two significant concrete recommendations.

It’s calling for a face-to-face education program so managers inside Parliament House know their responsibilities and how to recognise serious workplace incidents.

Secondly, the report calls for an “independent, confidential, complaints mechanism” so that people can report these kinds of serious incidents in future.

“[Foster’s] proposals and recommendations seek to ensure that processes are independent, provide empowerment to victims, and provide timely, effective and ongoing support,” Morrison said in a statement.

“I intend to take this report to Cabinet and respond to the recommendations on behalf of the Government.”

Let’s hope he’s serious about this.

Image: Getty Images / Cameron Spencer & Jamila Toderas