Dhanya Mani reached out to the Prime Minister’s office for help over an alleged indecent assault. She says she did not get any

A former New South Wales Liberal Party staffer who publicly aired allegations of indecent assault against a colleague in 2019 says she reached out to the Prime Minister’s office for help and did not receive any.

Dhanya Mani was working as a staffer in the Baird government in NSW when she alleges inappropriate conduct occurred.

“In the months at the end of 2014, at the beginning of 2015, I was subjected to a case of abusive conduct by a senior staffer in NSW Parliament,” Ms Mani told 7.30.

Ms Mani alleges this culminated in an incident where she was indecently assaulted in her own home, where she thought she would be safe.

She is critical of the response she received when she reported her allegations.

“I was told that it was my fault,” she told 7.30.

“I was also told simply that it just wasn’t true and I was making it up. And the best case response that I got was to say, ‘Well I guess we believe you but if you say anything, your political career will be over and this will be it for you.'”

After going public with her story in 2019 she was inundated with complaints from other women. Frustrated by a lack of response in her own case, she approached the office of Prime Minister Scott Morrison for help.

On August 23, 2019, Mr Morrison’s principal secretary, Yaron Finkelstein, called her on her mobile.

Ms Mani said in her conversation with Mr Finkelstein:

“… We’ve received a number of complaints that relate to Coalition ministers, and part of a complaint relates to handling of a complaint by the Prime Minister’s office, and as such we would want to try to seek a meeting, and I had wanted to let somebody in the office know of those matters as a courtesy, and also to see if that could be arranged, because obviously we’re both party members and care about the party.”

Ms Mani said the allegations she mentioned to Mr Finkelstein did not include the ones involving Brittany Higgins, a former Liberal staffer who alleges she was raped in Parliament House two years ago by another Liberal staffer.

The Prime Minister has announced four separate reviews in the week since Brittany Higgins went public with allegations she was raped inside Parliament House.(Supplied)

“I asked for Mr Finkelstein’s intervention because of the fact that I’d received an overwhelming number of complaints in the days after my story came out from women in federal politics and in state politics that related to ministers, members of cabinet, both levels, and also on a federal level to the way that the Prime Minister’s office itself had been handling complaints.”

‘Desperately attempting to seek help’

From Ms Mani’s perspective, the conversation was frustrating and disheartening.

“I felt that we were having two conversations,” she said.

“There was a conversation that I was having with Mr Finkelstein where I was vulnerable and desperately attempting to seek help for myself and other women.

“And there was the conversation Mr Finkelstein was having with the political risk.

“And so when I was speaking to him about the issue, it was just galling. In spite of everything that I said, Mr Finkelstein just said, ‘You should have gone to the police and I don’t understand why you didn’t. And I don’t understand why you haven’t told every other woman to do that as well.'”

Ms Mani says her point was that many assault victims did not want to go to the police and she was appealing for some internal party process to deal with complaints.

“I didn’t want to go through a police process. I told him that. I told him that it would be traumatising. I told him that this is harmful to survivors. I told him that it doesn’t offer justice, that it doesn’t empower us. It doesn’t afford us agency.

“It just felt that he was just wanting to say anything so that it wouldn’t be his problem to deal with and it wouldn’t be the Prime Minister’s problem.”

Ms Mani pressed Mr Finkelstein for what she could do to organise a meeting with the Prime Minister and whether he could help her do that.

A woman with glasses looks at the camera.
Dhanya Mani says she has not been contacted by either Mr Finkelstein or any member of the Prime Minister’s office since.(Supplied: Women’s Agenda)

“He told me that I was just welcome to write a letter to the Prime Minister like any other member of the public, which was extremely upsetting given that I was talking to the Prime Minister’s private secretary and I’d hoped that there would be compassion and empathy on some level, that it would be appreciated that I was personally reaching out and just sincerely asking for help.

“And so I ask him and I push him and say, ‘Well, are you prepared to do anything to help arrange a meeting with the Prime Minister?’ And almost grudgingly and bitterly he says, ‘Oh well, I guess I’ll send you my email address tomorrow and we’ll have a conversation about that in future.’

“He’s never contacted me again. Not once have I had any communication from either Mr Finkelstein or any member of the Prime Minister’s office.”

A spokesperson for the Morrison Government told 7.30 in a statement: “Mr Finkelstein encouraged Ms Mani to report to the relevant authorities any matters she deemed serious or that may have been a crime. In regards to her own claim, Mr Finkelstein undertook to contact the NSW Premier’s Chief of Staff to convey her views, which he did.”

Since Ms Higgins went public with her allegations last week, the Prime Minister has ordered four separate reviews into the response to the alleged crime.

Mr Morrison apologised for the way the matter was handled and said he had asked his staff what they knew about the incident.

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Facebook unrepentant as Prime Minister dubs emergency services block ‘arrogant’

Facebook’s head of policy in the Asia-Pacific argues it was the government’s proposed law — and not a failure to test their algorithm — that pushed them to “inadvertently” block emergency services pages during bushfire season.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has hammered the social media giant over its actions, dubbing them arrogant and disappointing.

Simon Milner, Facebook’s head of public policy for the Asia-Pacific region, told the ABC the capture of non-news pages reflects what Facebook argues is a broad definition of “news” as defined in the law.

“One of the criticisms we had about the law that was passed by the House of Representatives yesterday is that the definition of news is incredibly broad and vague.”

He wouldn’t address whether the mass-blocking had been tested, but he conceded some pages were “inadvertently” caught.

“We are correcting those, many of those have already been fully restored and able to share now, and we’re continuing to act on others that have been notified to us.”

The government has proposed the law to force companies like Google and Facebook to negotiate with media companies.

They are designed to ensure these media companies are fairly remunerated for the use of their content on search engines and social media platforms.

Google has signed deals with publishers in response, but Facebook has chosen to follow through on its threat and remove news for Australian users.

Mr Morrison released a statement critical of Facebook’s “actions to unfriend Australia today”, describing them as “as arrogant as they were disappointing”.

“These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behaviour of big tech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them.”

He added “we will not be intimidated by big tech”.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher disagrees with Facebook’s complaint related to the definition of “news” in the law but has offered to work through the “misunderstanding”.

No apology to small business

Mr Milner appeared in a Senate committee in January promising that removing news from Facebook would not affect small business.

“I can reassure the committee … that this [the potential removal of news] does not mean that Facebook would no longer be available for the millions of people in Australia who love Facebook and for the many small businesses, including in regional Australia, that make use of Facebook.”

Sallie Jones, who owns a Gippsland dairy business, told the ABC today her business’s content had been removed.

A woman with a broad-brim hat smiles as the camera surrounded by jersey cattle
Sallie Jones of Gippsland Jersey has reported her business’s posts have disappeared.(Supplied: Catherine Forge, Museums Victoria (MM143571))

“For us not to have Facebook in the first place, which I’m totally freaking out about, but the function of not to be able to share the news links, it’s just so disappointing to us as a company,” she said.

Her page was reinstated in the afternoon.

Mr Milner declined the opportunity to apologise to her, saying he could not comment on individual cases.

Mr Milner also declined to respond to the question of whether he could understand why Australians were upset, instead replying: “I can understand why people are responding to the actions we’re taking today.”

When asked why Facebook would do something that would risk impairing the flow of emergency information in the midst of bushfire season, Mr Milner said, “we did not want to do this”.

“This is caused by the law that was passed by the House of Representatives yesterday.”

The proposed law is likely to be passed by the Senate next week.

Discussions between Facebook and the government are continuing.

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Phone records of Prime Minister’s staff member to be reviewed to see if they called Brittany Higgins after alleged rape

The Prime Minister says he has asked the head of his Department to check if a member of his staff contacted former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins last year, after she was allegedly raped at Parliament House in 2019.

Yesterday, Scott Morrison said his office was first advised of the allegations made by former staffer Brittany Higgins at the end of last week, and there was no evidence anyone spoke to Ms Higgins before then.

“In relation to my [staff member], there is nothing that has been put in front of me, nothing, including phone records or anything else that suggests that that indeed was the case,” he said.

Ms Higgins told Channel 10’s The Project that a person in Mr Morrison’s office reached out to “check in” on her last year, around the time Four Corners broadcast its story on sexism and inappropriate behaviour by the Attorney-General.

Today, Labor asked the Prime Minister whether he accepted Ms Higgins’ statement.

“I refer to the answer that I gave on this matter yesterday, and the advice that I have is that that was the first time that I indicated yesterday that my office became aware of those issues, and I have engaged with the secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to verify that advice,” he replied.

The ABC has been told the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has been asked to look at the work phone records of that particular staff member.

Ms Higgins issued a new statement on Wednesday afternoon accusing Mr Morrison of “victim blaming”.(Supplied)

The Prime Minister has also announced an independent review — the third sparked by Ms Higgins’ claims — “at arm’s length of Government” will be conducted into the workplaces of parliamentarians and their staff.

In a letter to opposition leader Anthony Albanese, Mr Morrison said he hoped all sides of politics would be involved in developing the review.

“In particular, I have asked that this process considers the adequacy, effectiveness, independence and awareness of current supports that are available to parliamentarians and their staff,” he said.

“It is important that staff who work with us are listened to in this process.”

Yesterday, Mr Morrison announced two new initiatives in the wake of the allegations.

The first will see West Australian MP Celia Hammond work with Coalition MPs to consider new standards, and the second, overseen by senior bureaucrat at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet Stephanie Foster, will provide advice to Mr Morrison on how to establish an external complaints handling process.

Ms Higgins alleges a colleague raped her in the office of then-defence industry minister Linda Reynolds after a night out in 2019.

In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, she accused Mr Morrison of “victim blaming” and said the “government has questions to answer for their own conduct”.

“I didn’t know that security guards let me into Minister Reynolds suite. I didn’t know that a security guard came into the office multiple times seeing me in a state of undress.

“I didn’t know that they debated calling an ambulance at the time of the incident.”

She said one of the Prime Minister’s staff, and a person working in another office, had refused to provide CCTV footage of the night.

“And continually made me feel as if my ongoing employment would be jeopardised if I proceeded ay further with the matter,” she said.

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Employment Minister Michaelia Cash says she did not know the details about Brittany Higgins’ alleged rape

Ms Higgins was working for Employment Minister Michaelia Cash until she resigned earlier this month.

Today, Senator Cash said she only became aware of the full nature of Ms Higgin’s allegations last week.

“I only recently became aware, in fact in relation to the alleged rape, it was when a journalist contacted my office for comment,” she told Question Time.

“On Friday the 5th of February, Brittany and I spoke and she disclosed details of what had occurred.

“She advised me she did not want to pursue it.”

Senator Cash said she also offered to go with Ms Higgins’ to tell the Prime Minister, but she said “no” and that she wanted to maintain her privacy.

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Modi in Tamil Nadu | Significance of Prime Minister’s gesture at Sunday’s event

Prime Minister Narendra Modi holding up the hands of Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam at an official event on Sunday has prompted a discussion over the political message.

A. Gopanna, TNCC vice-president, wonders why Mr. Panneerselvam was left out of the meeting that Mr. Palaniswami held with Mr. Modi. But Fisheries Minister D. Jayakumar brushed aside the criticism and said the Chief Minister represented the entire State.

“One has to keep in mind other engagements of the Prime Minister and the time factor. But what was more important was Mr. Modi’s gesture, which signified happiness of the people, the party [AIADMK] and the State government,” he said.

BJP spokesperson T. Narayanan said what the Prime Minister sought to convey was that “the BJP and the AIADMK would remain one…”

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No time for foot-Draghing – Mario Draghi is set to become Italy’s next prime minister | Europe

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Mario Draghi sworn in as Italy's new prime minister

The former head of the European Central Bank must guide his country out of the Covid pandemic.

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Former prime minister Gough Whitlam’s Cabramatta house on the market

Political diehards are flocking to inspect an unassuming four-bedroom house on the market in Sydney’s south-west, once owned by former prime minister Gough Whitlam.

The Cabramatta home is modest by today’s standards — especially for a prime minister — but it was an architect-designed showpiece and “ahead of its time” when it was built in the 1950s.

Ray White Canterbury director Manuel Roussakis said the home needed a lot of work but was attracting plenty of interest from buyers, and those keen to inspect a slice of Australian political history.

“We’ve certainly had a lot of interested neighbours and people that have interest in politics that come through the home,” said Mr Roussakis, who is marketing the property using the famous Whitlam campaign slogan “It’s Time”.

The ALP stalwart and his wife Margaret owned the property from 1956 until 1978, including throughout his prime ministership, which concluded with his controversial 1975 dismissal.

Gough Whitlam’s Labor government was controversially dismissed in 1975.(Australian Information Service/National Library of Australia)

The deceased estate has clearly seen better days and now has paint peeling from the ceilings, broken kitchen cupboards and an overgrown backyard with a murky brown swimming pool.

But there are plenty of original features including floral wallpaper, patterned floor tiles and a baby-pink tiled bathroom.

“It was designed for Gough Whitlam, he engaged in architects to design the home, ” Mr Roussakis said.

“From our research, the architect was based in Cronulla, so it’s very much a Sutherland Shire-style home.

The living room of Gough Whitlam's former home has a fireplace and large bookshelf and floor-to-ceiling windows.
The living room features a fireplace and large bookshelf.(Supplied: Ray White)
A dated kitchen with damaged yellow cupboards and floral wallpaper.
The kitchen has original wallpaper but the cabinetry has seen better days.(Supplied: Ray White)

With its floor-to-ceiling windows, corner glass, separated living and bedroom zones, and a central courtyard feature “it’s unlike a lot of other homes in the area,” Mr Roussakis said.

“It’s a slice of history, a mid-Century classic, that gives good insight into the architecture of the time.

“It was very ahead of its time, in my opinion.”

It’s believed the Whitlams were only the second homeowners to build in the wide, peaceful street.

A black and white image of the exterior of Gough Whitlam's home in 1967.
The architect-designed home was cutting-edge when it was built in the 1950s.(ABC News)
Floor to ceiling windows feature in the living room of Gough Whitlam's former home.
Floor-to-ceiling windows feature in the living area.(Supplied: Ray White)
A tiled dining room with heater, exposed bricks and floral wallpaper.
There home has plenty of original features, including patterned tiling in the dining room.(Supplied: Ray White)

The property has a price guide of between $720,000 and $750,000 and is going to auction later this month.

Mr Roussakis has previously encouraged the Australian Labor Party (ALP) to buy the historically-significant property, but he would not be drawn on whether anyone from the party had come to inspect it.

“We’re pretty confidential about who comes through and who doesn’t, so all I can say is … we’re accepting everybody in through the doors.”

Whitlam held press interviews at home

Gough Whitlam conducts a media interview in the backyard of his Cabramatta home.
Gough Whitlam is interviewed by ABC reporter Jim North in his backyard in 1967.(ABC News)

Australia’s 21st prime minister was known to give media interviews at the home and on the night of December 2, 1972, when he was elected prime minister, he held a press conference from the living room.

“It’s clear that we’ve won handsomely in NSW and Victoria,” he told a throng of reporters.

“I just can’t get to a television set or to a telephone to find out how we’ve done in the other states.”

He then pushed through the crowd to join hundreds of his campaign workers and supporters eager to congratulate him in his front garden.

Gough Whitlam gives an interview on election night in 1972 after he was voted in as prime minister.
Mr Whitlam gives a press conference from his living room after winning the 1972 election.(ABC News)

The Whitlams put the house on the market in 1973, with an asking price of $46,500.

It’s unclear whether they later withdrew the property from the market or it failed to sell.

But when ABC reporter Stuart Littlemore spoke to neighbour Betty Carroll, who was selling the house for the Whitlams, she said the pair no longer had need for it.

“They’ve got the Lodge, she told me, and Kirribilli House when they come to Sydney, and Cabramatta is such a long way away,” Mr Littlemore said in a voiceover to the story.

At the time, Mrs Carroll estimated between $5,000 and $10,000 of the sale price would be due to “the prestige value, or the status value, that the prime minister lived here.”

Mr Whitlam died in 2014, aged 98.

He led the country through a period of massive social change from 1972 to 1975, introducing sweeping reforms to the nation’s economic and cultural affairs.

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The Prime Minister says he disagrees with Craig Kelly’s comments



February 03, 2021 16:26:58

Craig Kelly has drawn criticism for promoting unproven COVID-19 treatments on social media, and for appearing in a podcast hosted by conspiracy theorist Pete Evans.

Source: ABC News
Duration: 1min 13sec









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US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga discussed the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in a phone call. Here’s why

Among discussions about “global challenges” and “policy issues”, US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s first conversation also turned to the topic of a small uninhabited island chain in the East China Sea.

While the five islets and three rocks covering just 7 square kilometres may seem insignificant, they have been quite a hot topic between US and Japanese officials.

In fact, Mr Biden and Mr Suga’s early morning call on Thursday was the third time in a week that the islands have come up in the first conversations between high-level ministers, with defence and foreign affairs officials in each country all weighing in on the topic.

Here’s why they keep coming up.

What’s the background?

A map showing the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, which are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan.(ABC News: Illustration/Jarrod Fankhauser)

At the heart of the matter is a territorial dispute.

While Japan may control the islands and calls them Senkaku, China calls them Diaoyu and also makes a claim.

Taiwan also claims jurisdiction over the islands.

The islands are at the southern end of Japan’s Okinawa prefecture and are 410 kilometres from its capital Naha, but are 170 kilometres from Taiwan and 300km from China.

The Japanese Government says it holds a historical and legal claim to the Senkaku Islands. It says an 1885 survey found they had never been inhabited nor under Chinese control, and were thus identified as terra nullius and legally claimed by Japan in 1895.

The Chinese Government disputes this and claims it first discovered and named the Diaoyu Islands. It says its sovereignty claims go back 500 years and has historical maps, books and records to back them up.

Japan claims China and Taiwan have only shown interest in the islands since the 1970s, after a survey found a possible oil reserve.

Why are they coming up now?

Amid the conflicting claims of ownership, the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands have been a flashpoint between the countries for years.

Their ships often come into close contact in the area and there have been multiple collisions and deliberate rammings in the past, leading to protests in each country and diplomatic protests.

Several dozen fishing boats set off to the disputed islands in the East China Sea
The islands are a flashpoint, with protests from Taiwanese and Chinese fishing boats common in the area.(Reuters: Pichi Chuang)

Japan says it frequently observes Chinese government ships around the islands to test its response, including incursions into its territorial waters, and says China is challenging the status quo through coercion.

China says it has a right to patrol the waters around the islands and urges Japan to stop infringing on its sovereignty.

But one big reason the islands are currently on the radar for Japanese and US officials is China’s passing of a law last week which allows its coastguard to open fire on foreign vessels.

The draft wording of the bill allows the coastguard to use “all necessary means” to stop or prevent threats from foreign vessels, demolish other countries’ structures built on Chinese-claimed reefs and to board and inspect foreign vessels in waters claimed by China.

A Chinese coastguard ship is photographed far out at sea near Scarborough shoal in the South China Sea.
China has passed a law which allows its coastguard to fire on foreign vessels.(AFP: Ted Aljibe)

What’s it got to do with the US?

Due to their security treaty, the United States is obligated to become involved in the case of any armed attacks in Japanese territory.

Thus Mr Biden’s explicit recognition of the Senkaku Islands as Japanese territory affirms a US commitment to defend them.

Mr Biden promised an “unwavering commitment to the defence of Japan” as part of the 1960 Japan-US security treaty.

A man with white hair and wearing a suit speaks in front of a US flag with a woman with brown hair in the background.
President Joe Biden confirmed the US commitment to defend Japanese territory, including the Senkaku Islands.(Reuters: Jonathan Ernst)

The White House statement also said Mr Biden affirmed his “commitment to provide extended deterrence to Japan”.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin made similar commitments in conversations with their counterparts.

What does China say?

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying's Regular Press Conference on December 2, 2019
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying last week reaffirmed Chinese sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands.(Supplied: MOFA)

The Chinese Government is yet to officially respond to the statements by Mr Biden and Mr Suga.

But in a press conference after the passing of the coastguard law last week, Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying asserted China’s rights to the Diaoyu Islands.

“As for the East China Sea that you’re particularly interested in, I would like to emphasise that the Diaoyu Islands and their affiliated islands are China’s inherent territory,” she said.

“China safeguards its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests.

“We believe that China and Japan should manage their differences through dialogue and maintain peace and stability in the relevant maritime areas in accordance with the spirit and principle of the four political documents between China and Japan.”

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Giuseppe Conte to Resign as Italian Prime Minister

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy will offer his resignation on Tuesday, his office said on Monday evening, likely triggering the collapse of Italy’s teetering government and plunging the country deeper into political chaos as it faces a still-spiraling coronavirus epidemic and a halting vaccine rollout.

“Mr. Conte will go see the President, Sergio Mattarella,” following a cabinet meeting tomorrow morning, the prime minister’s office said in a statement, adding that the purpose of the visit would be “to tender his resignation.”

Mr. Conte’s resignation will put Italy back in the familiar situation of government instability, but in extraordinary times, with tens of millions of Italians struggling to stay healthy and get by under restrictions designed to reduce the country’s spread of infections.

More than 80,000 Italians have died from the coronavirus. The government, which was making slow but steady progress in vaccinating its public health workers, has hit a speed bump and threatened to sue Pfizer for a shortfall in vaccines. The political crisis has struck many Italians as unnecessary, and one of the country’s leading virologists has compared the politicians to musicians playing on the Titanic.

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