Australian Attorney General Christian Porter has dismissed a historic rape accusation against him as “totally false” after exposing himself as the subject of allegations made by a woman who took her own life last year.
Leading the media for a sometimes tearful press conference, Porter also resisted calls to step aside as the country’s first law enforcement officer amid mounting criticism of how the Conservative government has handled the allegations of rape and sexual assault.
The government had already been under pressure for an unrelated rape allegation, after a young political staff member came forward to say she felt compelled to choose between her career and pursuing a police investigation after she was allegedly assaulted by a Senior colleague in a ministerial office at Parliament House in Canberra 2019.
Then last week news reports revealed that the prime minister had received a letter detailing rape allegations against an anonymous male member of his cabinet, dating back to January 1988. The woman was 16 at the time. of the alleged violation. She took her own life last year.
Those accusations effectively cast a shadow over Scott Morrison’s 16 male cabinet members for five days, because the mainstream media did not name the minister, fearing possible action under the country’s strict defamation laws.
Porter called a press conference in his home state of Western Australia on Wednesday to say he was “deeply sorry” for the question mark that had been placed on the reputations of his fellow Cabinet members. He said he did not comment on the allegations before because he was following police process and risking damaging any investigation.
She told reporters that she remembered the applicant as a “smart, bright and happy person” and that she had been a friend and a member of the debate team she was on. I was 17 years old.
But he said the alleged incident “just didn’t happen.” He also said that he had not had contact with her since 1988.
Porter, who was a crown prosecutor before entering politics, said he first heard in November last year that “a small number of people spread a rumor that they had somehow offended someone decades ago in a way that it was never specified. I”.
Porter said he had also discussed the matter last week with Morrison, the prime minister, who had received word of a letter detailing the allegations.
Porter said Wednesday that he would take a few weeks off to seek mental health support, but maintained that he would not resign as the country’s first law enforcement officer. He argued that he shouldn’t lose his job over unsubstantiated allegations.
“If I retire from my position as Attorney General because of an accusation about something that just didn’t happen, then anyone in Australia can lose their career, their job, their life’s work for nothing more than an indictment that appears in print.” Porter said.
“If that happens, anyone in public life can be removed simply by printing an indictment. All the children we raise can have their lives destroyed just by online reporting of allegations. “
Porter said such a resignation would set a new standard and that “there would not be much need for an Attorney General anyway because there would be no rule of law left to protect in this country.”
NSW police determined Tuesday that there was insufficient admissible evidence to proceed with an investigation, following the alleged victim’s death. There have been increasing calls for Morrison to launch an independent investigation.
The prospect of a coronary investigation remains in South Australia, the state where the woman died in June 2020.
South Australian Coroner David Whittle said on Wednesday that he had received a brief of evidence from the state police force in March, but had determined that the police investigation was “incomplete” in light of “recent media reports. “.
Once the police investigation had been completed to your satisfaction, the coroner would consider initiating an investigation.
Last month, parliament was rocked by allegations by a former employee, Brittany Higgins, that she was raped on the couch in the defense industry minister’s office by a senior colleague in 2019. Higgins recently restarted her police report. , having said that she felt pressured not to. proceed with a formal investigation at that time.
That case prompted the government to launch several reviews of workplace culture and the handling of allegations in politics.
Porter’s press conference came just hours after Australian of the year, sexual assault survivor Grace Tame, chided the prime minister for his language on the Higgins case.
Morrison has said that he spoke to his wife, Jenny, about the matter and that she had told him to consider the issue as the father of two daughters.
But Tame told the National Press Club in Canberra: “You shouldn’t have to have children to have a conscience. And in fact, in addition to that, having children does not guarantee a conscience.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism