Saturday, April 06, 2024

PwC Sex Scandal - Higgins memoir on ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ parties at Parliament House

Police investigated sexual assault allegation against PwC employee

Police have investigated allegations that a PwC employee in Sydney followed a colleague home after a night out and sexually assaulted her.
The woman, who AFR Weekend has chosen not to name, is suing PwC under workplace laws, including for damages. Both parties agreed on Friday to attend mediation.
The woman’s lawsuit is over alleged breaches of the Fair Work Act, claiming that a number of alleged incidents happened in connection with work, including the sexual assault at her home, and other incidents in the lead-up.
On August 25, 2023, there was a team gathering at PwC’s Sydney offices, and afterwards employees attended bars in the city, including Ryan’s Bar and PJ O’Briens.
It is alleged the woman and the accused man attended separate drinks after the office function but ran into each other as groups moved through different city venues.
The man allegedly “pursued the applicant, followed her home before engaging in non-consensual intercourse”, according to the woman’s legal filings against PwC in the Federal Court, read out by Justice Tom Thawley.
The court heard the accused man has chosen to remain silent.
It is alleged the assault was the third incident involving the man. On July 21, 2023, it is alleged that about 9pm the man began dancing with the woman at an after-work function, and touched her lower back and waist. In a separate incident at an after-work function the man is alleged to have taken the woman’s hand and pushed it on to his genitals.
Police have investigated, but the case has been suspended.
NSW Police said: “Following a report received in December 2023, officers from Eastern Suburbs Police Area Command conducted an investigation; to date no charges have been laid.”
PwC declined to comment “on matters before the court”.
“More broadly, PwC is committed to providing a safe workplace and takes allegations around employee safety seriously,” a firm spokeswoman said.
“We have policies and procedures in place to ensure complaints are investigated promptly and carefully, while providing support and care to our people.”
The allegations come at a time of increased scrutiny on workplace culture and practices of the big five consulting firms: PwC, EY, KPMG, Deloitte and Accenture.
In November 2022, landmark changes to Australian workplace laws introduced a positive duty, which requires employers to take active steps to try to eliminate sex discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation.
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Max Mason covers insolvency, courts, regulation, financial crime, cybercrime and corporate wrongdoing. A Walkley Award winner, Max's journalism has also received awards from the National Press Club of Australia, the Kennedy Awards and Citibank. Connect with Max on Twitter. Email Max at

Higgins memoir on ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ parties at Parliament House

Former Liberal ministers hosted Wolf of Wall Street-style-parties, cultivated a “Big Swinging Dicks” club, and treated sexual harassment as an “open secret”, according to a newly released draft of Brittany Higgins’ tell-all book.
Then-cabinet ministers Christian Porter, Michael Keenan, Alan Tudge and Steve Ciobo were members of the “infamous” club, and her first meeting with them involved serving them drinks before being invited to join them for drinks at a bar, the former staffer claimed.
Brittany Higgins and her partner David Sharaz celebrated their “game planning”, AFR
Pages of the would-be memoir were tendered by Network Ten as evidence in the Federal Court on Friday, as part of a defamation action brought by former staffer Bruce Lehrmann. Ten is arguing that Lehrmann leaked the manuscript, and other documents, to Channel 7 and that by doing so he breached his legal obligations. Ten says that is relevant to Lehrmann’s credibility.
Mr Lehrmann has sued over an episode of The Project that aired in February 2021, including an interview with Ms Higgins about allegations she was raped in Parliament House two years earlier.
The program did not name Mr Lehrmann as the alleged rapist, but he has argued he was identifiable from the details it included. Mr Lehrmann has always denied the rape allegation and a criminal case against him was aborted following juror misconduct.
The  allegations made in the manuscript outline have not been proven true and have not been tested in court or put to those concerned.
The pages show Ms Higgins described Mr Ciobo “lining up his staff and pouring whiskey directly in our mouths” at an office Christmas party, saying “the whole event had an almost Wolf of Wall Street style of hedonism about it”.
The comment is a reference to the 2014 Martin Scorsese film about bad boy Wall Street trader Jordan Belfort. However, the manuscript does not detail any allegations of illicit drug use.
Ms Higgins worked in Mr Ciobo’s office when she first moved to Canberra from the Gold Coast.
When Mr Ciobo found her red-eyed from crying at the separate Coalition Christmas party, he “laughed, assuming that I had taken the opportunity to get high”, she said.
On a later Christmas party, Higgins wrote that it was the same “standard debauchery, just older, wiser and more tired”.
Mr Ciobo was contacted for comment on Friday evening.
Ms Higgins also alleged then Liberal MP Andrew Laming “played with the buttons on [her] blazer” and that his conduct was an “open secret in Parliament House”.
The drinking culture extended to staffers’ relationships with lobbyists and media, Ms Higgins continued.
In a plan for a chapter about her relationship with journalist Joe Kelly, son of The Australian‘s editor-at-large Paul Kelly, Ms Higgins describes “the strange suspended existence of the ‘lost boys’ of Canberra”. She says these reporters were “living for the sitting weeks, renting small, dank apartments, drinking with staffers for scoops etc”.
The unpublished pages reveal how Ms Higgins and her partner David Sharaz thought they had “become quite a twosome when it came to game planning” media and political considerations around the revelations, drawing on her experience as a media advisor, and his as a television journalist.
“The Liberal Party had spent the last three years training me how to play media games. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right,” she wrote.
Ms Higgins described Parliament House as full of “steely stoicism” but painted a picture of a deeply dysfunctional workplace.
She said she learnt she was losing her job through a Rear Window column in this masthead, for example, which revealed that Mr Ciobo was leaving politics. She went on to work for new defence minister, Linda Reynolds.
She said she was also “shocked the bulk of the people working behind the scenes and advising these ministers of the crown were all broadly in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties”.
She said it was “baffling” that the oldest person in Mr Ciobo’s office except the minister himself was in their late 20s, and expressed surprise at the level of access to classified information they had as staffers.
Justice Lee will deliver his judgment in the defamation case, including any findings about whether the manuscript was leaked by Lehrmann, at a later date.
Hannah Wootton is a reporter for the Financial Review.Connect with Hannah on Twitter. Email Hannah at
Tom McIlroy is the Financial Review's political correspondent, reporting from the federal press gallery at Parliament House. Connect with Tom on Twitter. Email Tom at