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Floodgates begin to open on assaults as high-profile victims share stories

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Women across Australia continue to raise reports of inappropriate behaviour with links to politics

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By Thursday morning, parliaments in NSW, Queensland, Tasmania and Canberra had each been told of allegations of rape, groping, harassment and slut shaming.

A woman sex worker was raped by a male MP in the Blue Mountains, NSW Labor MP Trish Doyle told state parliament in shock revelations late on Wednesday.

“It is all the worse that this man who raped her is a government member of this chamber,” she said, speaking under the protection of parliamentary privilege.

Hours later Nationals MP Michael Johnsen announced he was “devastated” by unspecified allegations and that he was taking immediate leave from parliament.

“I have voluntarily spoken with NSW Police and I have and will continue to fully cooperate with their inquiries,” he said in a statement.

“I am confident any investigation will conclude that I am an innocent party.”

Earlier in the day Tasmania’s lower house heard from Speaker Sue Hickey, who accused Liberal Senator Eric Abetz of slut shaming former federal staffer Brittany Higgins by saying she was “so disgustingly drunk” she “would sleep with anybody”.

Senator Abetz denies the allegation.

Ms Higgins has reported to police that she was raped in federal parliament house by another Liberal staffer in 2019.

In Queensland parliament on Wednesday, Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said that when she was attorney-general two years ago she was groped by a visiting dignitary during a meeting at parliament.

Her revelation follows recent accounts from fellow Queensland Labor MP Jonty Bush of having been subject to sexual abuse and harassment, spanning years.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he wants to improve the treatment of women.

“What I must do first is demonstrate that I am listening and that I am understanding the pain that so many Australian women are feeling,” he told parliament on Wednesday.

Mr Morrison has taken on personal responsibility for responding to a national inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace, which has been gathering dust for more than a year.

The prime minister said his response would be released before the federal budget in May.

He also plans to raise sexual harassment laws with state and territory leaders at the next meeting of national cabinet.

The ongoing reports of poor behaviour come a week after March 4 Justice rallies were held across Australia.

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