A senior Australian government minister believes comments by Barnaby Joyce urging an independent inquiry into an alleged historic rape by Christian Porter are out of frustration because of the “farcical” way it is playing out in the media.
Joyce, a Nationals MP and former deputy prime minister, has backed calls for an independent inquiry, saying many of his colleagues want Porter’s “head on a plate.”
“I think in reading Barnaby’s comments it was probably as much out of frustration about the way this has played out in almost a farcical way in the media with everybody sort of making comments,” Social Services Minister Anne Ruston told Sky News’ Sunday agenda program.
Porter, the Attorney-General, has strenuously denied that he sexually assaulted a woman in 1988. The woman committed suicide last year.
NSW police are no longer investigating the case because there is no admissible evidence.
Like Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Senator Ruston does not believe there is a need for an independent inquiry with the police unable to proceed further.
“None of should be above the law but every should be judged by the same law,” Senator Ruston said.
Labor, the Greens, and some crossbench MPs and Senator are calling for an independent inquiry.
“I would be pretty disappointed if the crossbench sought to hold up important legislation … I think it would reflect very badly on them,” the minister said.
She admits Parliament House has been a very difficult workplace clouded by speculation in the media in the last three weeks, stemming from a separate case of the alleged rape of former Liberal staffer, Brittany Higgins, by a colleague.
As such, she welcomes an inquiry headed by Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins into the culture of parliament.
“It is really important that we get some clarity around the processes that are in place in the parliament,” Senator Ruston said.
“It will only serve to make our workplace a better place.”
Jenkins told Sky News the aim is to build on the national sexual harassment inquiry into what drives harassment.
“It’s more about systemic risk than it is about a few bad blokes misbehaving,” she said.
“We learnt a lot about how to improve the workplace and I think that opens the door for parliament to look at its own particular circumstances and see how that can improve.”
By Colin Brinsden