Brittany Higgins was "a young lady in the middle of strong political forces" as she weighed up whether to pursue a police complaint against the man accused of raping her at Parliament House, a jury has heard.
"We say she was right to be scared," prosecutor Shane Drumgold SC told jurors in the ACT Supreme Court on Tuesday, during his closing address in the trial of Bruce Lehrmann.
Former Liberal Party staffer Lehrmann, 27, has been on trial for the past two weeks, having pleaded not guilty to a charge of engaging in sexual intercourse without consent.
He denies any sexual activity with Ms Higgins in the early hours of March 23, 2019, when the pair worked for Senator Linda Reynolds and attended her ministerial suite after "a drunken night out".
On Tuesday, Mr Drumgold told the jury of 10 women and six men that the evidence he had presented removed any doubt that Lehrmann had raped Ms Higgins on a couch in the senator's office.
He urged jurors not to accept the "various reasons" Lehrmann had given for attending Parliament House on the morning in question, with the possible exception of one.
Mr Drumgold recounted how Lehrmann had been recorded telling security guards he had been "requested to pick up some documents" upon arrival, dismissing this as an explanation given simply to allow the alleged rapist entry into the building.
Lehrmann later told police he had needed to pick up the keys to his apartment, and Mr Drumgold asked whether it was realistic that he would have left them at Parliament House and exposed himself to the "security rigmarole" required to collect them on his way home from a night out.
Mr Drumgold said the only one of Lehrmann's explanations that could possibly be true was the one given to Senator Reynolds' then-chief of staff, Fiona Brown, who questioned him about his unauthorised trip to parliament being a "security breach".
The prosecutor told jurors Lehrmann had informed Ms Brown he had gone back to Parliament House in the small hours "to drink his whisky".
Mr Drumgold said there may be an element of truth to this, but Lehrmann's real goal had been "to get the drunk and vulnerable [Ms Higgins] alone in a room".
Parliament House was "a convenient place" to do this, he said, with Lehrmann possibly hoping Ms Higgins would not resist or even remember after "a huge night" of partying.
While Lehrmann's barrister, Steven Whybrow, is yet to give his closing address, he has suggested during the trial that Ms Higgins fabricated the rape allegation because she was scared of losing her job and embarrassed about having been found naked by security guards in Senator Reynolds' office.
Mr Whybrow has also cross-examined Ms Higgins on issues like what became of the dress she wore on the night out, and her decisions to take part in media interviews and pursue book deals when she decided to go public with her allegations and pursue a formal police complaint in early 2021.
On Tuesday, Mr Drumgold described these things as "distractions" that did not change the consistency of what Ms Higgins had told various people about the alleged rape from a very early stage.
"How can something that occurred two years later, whether it be a media interview or a book deal, make something that happened unhappen?" Mr Drumgold asked jurors.
Ms Higgins has told the court of feeling pressured by the Liberal Party not to report the alleged rape to police, feeling as if her job was "on the line" because making a formal complaint would be politically problematic at a time when the 2019 federal election was looming.
Having called evidence from the likes of Senator Reynolds, Ms Brown and Senator Michaelia Cash, the latter of whom employed Ms Higgins after that election, Mr Drumgold said it was clear "strong political forces" were at play immediately after the alleged rape, through the election campaign and beyond.
Ms Higgins had initially been "faced with a fork in the road", according to the prosecutor, with her two choices being to keep her "dream job" with the Liberal Party or pursue a formal police complaint.
He argued Ms Higgins had been right to act with caution and move slowly before deciding to "hand her life over to police" by proceeding with a complaint early last year.
While Mr Drumgold urged the jury to consider the "political and emotional interests" of witnesses in assessing their credibility, he cautioned against treating the case as one about political parties, workplace cultures or the #MeToo movement.
"This is a case about what happened on a couch, in a room," he said, adding that the room just happened to be situated in the nation's federal parliament.
Mr Drumgold described the case as one accompanied by a lot of "political and courtroom drama", which he likened to "debris" jurors would need to wade through in order to get to the essence of the case.
He said the essence of the case was whether or not Ms Higgins had made up the rape allegation.
"If she did, it was quite elaborate," Mr Drumgold said, asserting that Ms Higgins had told "the same consistent story" to family, friends, colleagues, government ministers, police, the media and the jury.
This, he added, would make her "quite the actor" if her account had all been a lie.
The trial continues, with Mr Whybrow set to start his closing address on Tuesday afternoon.
MORE COVERAGE OF THE TRIAL:
- Senator accused of trying to 'coach' defence barrister's cross-examination of Higgins
- 'Political suicide': Senator denies pretending not to know about alleged rape
- 'Nothing was fine after what you did': Higgins confronts alleged rapist, denies being 'monster'
- Lehrmann 'in a hurry to get out' after alleged rape: parliament security
- 'My world has been rocked': Lehrmann tells police of 'Bruce the rapist' impersonator
- 'Broken, shattered person': Light in Higgins 'turned off' after alleged rape
- 'Bruce got quite handsy': What Higgins told parliament police after alleged rape
- Higgins 'unavailable' to continue cross-examination in rape trial, jury told
- Higgins had planned book before being 'blown away' by $325k offer, court hears
- 'So incorrect': Higgins hits back at 'deeply insulting' cross-examination
- 'I wanted her out': Higgins denies attempt to hide evidence, admits 'scrubbing' phone
- Higgins secretly recorded 'weirdest phone call' with Cash after quitting
- 'It may sound ridiculous': Higgins admits 'mistake' about 'weird anchor' dress
- Meeting with minister at site of alleged rape felt like 'scare tactic': Higgins
- 'Like this weird anchor': Higgins kept dress under bed while weighing up action
- Higgins 'rebuffed kiss' from accused rapist before allegedly being 'trapped'
- Public 'sold a pup' with 'unstoppable snowball' story of alleged Higgins rape