Australia

Liberals confront fresh allegations of sexual assault made by party staffers

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Two female political staffers that worked for senior Liberal politicians have raised new allegations of sexual assault, targeting the party's culture and response to complaints.

Two women who worked for senior Liberal politicians have gone public with allegations of sexual assault within state and federal politics, blasting the party's culture and complaints process.

But while Senior Liberal Michaelia Cash denied her party has a problem with women, another government backbencher has sought to clarify his response to the fresh accusations. 

Nationals MP David Gillespie has stepped back from his description of the allegations made by the two Liberal party staffers as "a bit of a beat-up."

"Unaware of the stories being reported earlier in the day about sexual harassment allegations, I thought the question asked of me related to matters raised after the change in Liberal Party leader last year," he said.

"This is what I was referring to as a 'beat up'."

He was asked earlier on Wednesday whether the Coalition government was a welcoming place for women. 

"It's a bit confected, the Coalition is a very welcoming place for women in general.

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Watch: Michaelia Cash says her party doesn't have a problem with women.
Watch: Michaelia Cash says her party doesn't have a problem with women.

"In the National Party we just had three women elected and, similarly in the Liberal Party, there are plenty of incredibly talented women who are representing Senate positions and House of Representatives.

"It's a bit of a beat-up I think," Mr Gillespie said before walking into Parliament. 

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Senior Liberal Michaelia Cash told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday the complaints made must be investigated.

"These are serious allegations and I would say to the parties concerned that they should be referred to the appropriate authorities," Senator Cash said.

However, Liberal Party veteran Kathryn Greiner said telling the women to go to the police was "simply another way of shutting people up".

Senator Michaelia Cash in Melbourne
Minister Michaelia Cash encouraged the women making allegations to go to the police.
AAP

Ms Greiner, who has been with the party for 50 years, said cultural change started at the top.

"If we want to bring transformative and conclusive change into the Liberal Party, which we clearly need to do, then it starts with the PM," she told ABC Radio National.

"This is about systemic reform within the Liberal Party, of which the prime minister and the premier of our state (Gladys Berejiklian) are both leaders.

"Both of them have a responsibility to get in here and make cultural and systemic change."

One woman who worked for a federal minister has told Nine News another parliamentary staffer assaulted her in Canberra in 2015.

A former staffer to the NSW Speaker alleged a fellow Liberal Party member forced himself on her.

Federal government minister Richard Colbeck said the alleged behaviour did not belong in any workplace.

"I urge those who made those claims to contact police," he told reporters.

Richard colbeck
Senator Richard Colbeck said the alleged behaviour did not belong in any workplace.
AAP

"If they wanted to make a claim through the parliamentary process there's a capacity for them to do that without names being released, so they can do that through the system.

"But that sort of behaviour doesn't belong in any workplace, it's completely unacceptable, nobody condones that."

NSW Nationals Senator Perin Davey described the allegations as deeply disturbing.

"I would encourage anyone with such allegations to take them to the police and have them thoroughly investigated," Senator Davey told reporters.

The prime minister's office has been contacted for comment.

Additional reporting: AAP

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