Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter has denied allegations of a historical sexual assault claim that is alleged to have taken place in 1988, after it became public knowledge.
Following days of media reports of a rape allegation against an unnamed cabinet minister, Porter fronted the media from his home state of Western Australia on Wednesday, to say he was the minister at the centre of the reports.
“I can say categorically that what has been put in various forms in allegations simply did not happen,” Porter said. “Nothing in the allegations that have been printed ever happened.”
Porter, who was visibly distressed, said he hadn’t been in contact with the woman alleging the assault in 33 years. He also said, “No-one in law enforcement or the law or politics or the media ever put any substance with any specific allegations to me at all.”
The allegations, which were detailed in an anonymous letter sent to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other politicians, accused Porter of raping a woman in Sydney in 1988 during a high school debate camp.
The ABC reported on Tuesday that NSW Police released a statement on March 2, stating that their investigation into the allegations, which were made by the woman in 2019 before her death, had been closed due to “insufficient admissible evidence.”
NSW Police said that the woman contacted them in 2019 about the historic accusations but did not detail her allegations in a formal statement at the time.
The police, who sought legal counsel after they received a document “purportedly made by the woman,” also noted that the matter was now closed.
Porter said he would not be resigning from his current role but did note that he will take a short leave of absence during which he will seek professional help for his mental health.
Calls For An Inquiry Into the Allegation
Members of Parliament have called for the allegations to be investigated by an independent inquiry.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has said the prime minister needs to ensure the matter is appropriately investigated.
“Now that the existing legal processes have been unable to proceed, certainly in terms of NSW Police, I think people will be looking for further responses beyond any statement that might be made today by the minister,” Albanese said.
Albanese noted that it’s crucial to Australia’s legal system that everyone has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, but said that Morrison’s argument that it was a matter solely for the police was not adequate.
“This is a disturbing allegation,” Albanese said. “The accusation that was made by the woman is very detailed and quite harrowing. People are looking for leadership on this issue.”
Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce also supports the idea for an independent inquiry by former High Court judges but told 2GB Radio that it should be held behind closed doors.
Joyce believes this would prevent the allegations from being “weaponised by third parties” or in the media.
“There should be a process that takes it away from trial by politicians because some of that has political purposes and nothing much to do with empathy for the victim,” Joyce said.
Queensland Senator Matt Carnavon told the Nine’s Today program on Wednesday that Porter has the right to the presumption of innocence.
“To this date, what we have seen are allegations. Serious allegations,” Carnavon said. “But if the simple mere allegation or making of an allegation would cause someone to be removed from office, that obviously sets a very dangerous precedent.”
Porter, who compared his situation to that of former Labor leader and current opposition spokesperson Bill Shorten, said that he would not comment on the possibility of a public inquiry.