It's rare to see Scott Morrison as far out of his political comfort zone as he was this week, when the shocking story unfolded of the young former government staffer, Brittany Higgins, who alleges she was raped in Parliament House.
Her revelations exposed a dark underside of the political culture in Canberra. They also led to questions - not yet adequately answered - that went to the heart of how things are done in the Morrison government and in his private office.
While the government floundered, Higgins gained strength. On Friday she announced she would lay a complaint with the police against her alleged assailant, and said she'd told Morrison's office she wanted to be involved in drawing up the proposed inquiry into the workplaces of parliamentarians and their staff.
During the week, the political focus of the issue moved from whether or to what degree Linda Reynolds, then defence industry minister, fell down in her duty of care to her staffer, to when Morrison and his office knew about Higgins' alleged assault by a colleague in Reynolds' office in March 2019.
Morrison says he first knew of the rape allegation on Monday this week, and his staff only learned of it on Friday last week.
The Prime Minister threw Reynolds under the proverbial bus for not telling him, with a rebuke delivered in the House of Representatives.
At one level, of course the PM should know about a crime allegedly committed under his workplace roof. The question of whether Reynolds should have told him is, however, debatable.
If she'd made the information more widely available, Reynolds would not just have breached Higgins' privacy but possibly, given the nature of politics, jeopardised her prospects.
As it was, post-election Higgins had job offers from several ministers, and went to Michaelia Cash's office, where she apparently got on well.
Reynolds this week gave a general apology to Higgins but, apart from meeting her in the room in which the incident took place (the minister's own office), it is not clear where her treatment of her staffer was at fault.
Higgins said on Wednesday that Reynolds' then chief of staff, Fiona Brown, who primarily handled things, "continually made me feel as if my ongoing employment would be jeopardised if I proceeded any further with the matter".
Yet Reynolds wanted Higgins to seek police action (while recognising her right not to). She did speak to the police, as did Reynolds. It is understandable Higgins felt she was choosing between laying a complaint and protecting her career. But if Reynolds advised her to pursue a complaint, presumably she would have stood by her if she had done so.
On Thursday, Reynolds said: "I made it clear to Brittany that she would have my full support in whatever course of action she decided to take."
Not that long after the incident, Higgins told Brown how appreciative she'd been of her support and advice.
On the other hand, text evidence shows Higgins, reacting to unrelated reported bad behaviour, referring to how she'd received little help. Not surprisingly, her mood varied.
Brown is very relevant to the row over what Morrison knew and when. She's described by one staff source (not in the PM's office) as a sensitive, maternal figure who'd follow proper process.
Brown is currently in Morrison's office. She knew everything about these events. If Morrison says Reynolds should have passed on the information, doesn't he think Brown should have?
His "Chinese walls" justification for apparent double standards sounds ludicrous.
He told Parliament there was a convention a staffer didn't talk about what happened in a previous office they'd worked in. If such a convention existed (before this week), surely it would apply only to work matters.
More probably, if Brown said nothing it was because she thought the issue closed - or, like Reynolds, she was being discreet.
Whatever Brown did or didn't do, Morrison's claim that his office was unaware of the allegation until late last week is self-evidently false and illogical, because Brown was fully across it. With claims continuing that others in his office had knowledge, Morrison has his departmental head, Phil Gaetjens, investigating.
Morrison has a bevy of senior media advisers. It's odd they didn't alert him that Maiden, a tiger when she's on the scent, might be about to cause him grief.
Morrison certainly knew he was walking on eggshells after the story broke, but plunged increasingly into trouble, not least when he smashed the whole egg carton by invoking Jenny's advice to think as a father.
At a political level, the Higgins issue has been a test of four high-profile Senate women: two ministers, Reynolds and Cash, and Labor's Senate leader and deputy, Penny Wong and Kristina Keneally.
Wong and Keneally are among the opposition's fiercest attack dogs, and they homed in on Reynolds, who after the rebuke at first stonewalled, then made a statement on Thursday. The strain was showing - she broke down when dealing with a separate matter.
Higgins was still employed in Cash's office when she decided to quit recently.
In an emotional account, Cash told the Senate she tried to persuade Higgins to stay, and offered to accompany her to the police if she wanted to make a complaint. Cash also offered to go with her to Morrison's office. But Higgins declined, saying she wanted to preserve her privacy.
Their discussion was after Morrison stood beside Australian of the Year Grace Tame, an advocate for survivors of sexual violence - an image Higgins has pointed to as one trigger for her decision to go public.
It is not clear what mix of motives caused Higgins to speak out. But as she said on Friday, "I now have my voice."
- Michelle Grattan is a press gallery journalist and former editor of The Canberra Times. She is a professorial fellow at the University of Canberra and writes for The Conversation, where her columns also appear.