The Canberra bubble proved itself to be an opaque and murky edifice as it settled over Parliament House last week.
It seems that while the rest of the nation’s idea of doing business has moved on from boozy long lunches or late night binges and adheres to occupational health and safety regimes that aim to prevent the kind of episodes that Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins endured, Parliament House is a law unto itself.
It seems the place where laws are made can be quite lawless.
A further two allegations of sexual assault involving Ms Higgins’ alleged assailant only adds to the urgency of the situation.
While the politics of this has a long way to play out, with increasing pressure on the Prime Minister about when he actually knew what, Ms Higgins’ coming out has also outed a dangerous work culture, and an inadequate policing and complaints procedure at Parliament House, as well as, unsurprisingly, a flurry of inquiries.
A senior bureaucrat from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet will investigate whether there is sufficient support for people who work in the Federal Parliament, while a bi-partisan, independent committee will also investigate the workplace culture and support available to staff.
Liberal backbencher Celia Hammond, a former university vice-chancellor, will also investigate the workplace culture within the Liberal Party.
And now it has become a police matter, as it should have been in the first place.
It is easy to see how a traumatised Ms Higgins would have been discouraged – the looming 2019 election, fears for her job, and the political implications of such an incident taking place in the office of a Minister of the Crown.
The Parliament House environment can be an intoxicating mix of power and privilege, with its important goings-on magnified out of all proportion, a world of its own detached from the reality of the rest of Canberra, no matter the country.
It can be a place of high emotion, intense relationships and excess when the pressure needs to be relieved, encouraging aberrant behaviour, especially for those playing away from home.
And infused with the heady whiff of politics, and a perspective seen through that particular prism.
That only makes it even more important that there be firm standards and oversight.
Staffers such as Ms Higgins are employed by the Department of Finance, a large and distant overseer that probably doesn’t understand those employees or their needs.
The first thing to do would be to bring Parliament House employees directly under an entity that would be close to its workforce, approachable and capable of applying and policing at least the current APS OH&S standards, including policies for bullying and harassment, as well as imposing any specific rules that may be deemed necessary for that workplace.
This incident has not come out of the blue. The consensual Barnaby Joyce affair that prompted the famous ‘bonking ban’ from Malcolm Turnbull was a glaring sign that something was amiss on the Hill.
Another obvious reason for a shake-up of culture is the security risk that it poses. Mr Joyce was the Deputy Prime Minister, Ms Higgins’ boss Senator Linda Reynolds was Minister for Defence Industry at the time and the incident occurred in her office.
Alcohol-affected staffers and God knows who else running around ministers’ offices late at night, in a city filled with spies, with cyber and trade wars being waged, should be the intelligence agencies’ worst nightmare.
Let the police investigation proceed to its conclusion, the politics play out and the reviews announced bring about change that makes Parliament House safe for its employees and secure for the country it serves.