An anonymous letter, sent to several members of Federal Parliament last week, alleged a 16-year-old girl was raped in 1988 by a man who is now a minister in the federal government. The ABC was the first to report the allegations.
After much speculation and conjecture, during which time the name of the alleged rapist went unnamed, Porter this afternoon outed himself. Fronting the media in Perth, the Liberal MP and former prosecutor denied the allegations.
Porter started by extending his condolences to the woman’s parents, saying they also did not deserve the “frenzied politicisation” of her death. He said he only knew her briefly when they were teenagers on a debating team.
“The things that are being claimed to happen did not happen,” Porter said.
“But because what is being alleged did not happen, I must say so publicly.”
Porter’s accuser, who has not been identified, took her own life last year and her rape case has been closed by NSW police. South Australian police have prepared a report on her death for the state’s coroner, however there are growing calls for the rape allegations to be formally tested in an inquiry. Friends of the woman have sought to keep the case open.
Porter said no specific allegations had ever been put to him, not even by the media, however he had heard a rumour in November last year that he had “somehow offended against someone decades ago”. He said he would have remembered something of that nature.
“I did not sleep with the victim, we didn’t have anything of that nature between us,” Porter said, using the term ‘victim’ as it had been used by a journalist.
Porter would not be drawn on whether there should be an inquiry, suggesting it was a decision for someone else. He said, however, that the circumstances were different to allegations of workplace harassment against former High Court judge Dyson Heydon and would require him to again deny and attempt to disprove the allegations made by the woman.
Porter said initiating such an inquiry would mean that allegations not taken up by police could continue to be made against public figures, “in this hyper-politicised world that we have,” until they lost their job.
The Attorney-General said he would not resign, as that would set a precedent and there would be “no rule of law left to protect in this country”. He will, however, take an unspecified period of mental health leave.
Briefly becoming emotional, Porter said to those who had asked if he was okay: “I gotta say, my honest answer is I really dunno”.
The culture within Parliament House and politics has been the subject of scrutiny in recent weeks after former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins publicly alleged another staffer raped her in March 2019 in a minister’s office. The alleged incidents are unrelated but have put Prime Minister Scott Morrison under pressure to act.
In November, the ABC reported concerns about Porter’s behaviour towards women going back decades, including allegations of public drunkenness and making unwanted advances. Porter kept his Cabinet post however the report inflamed tensions between the public broadcaster and the Morrison government.
Porter today sought to compare the rape allegations to those made against former Labor leader Bill Shorten, relating to a similar period of time, and accused the media of treating him differently by “trying, possibly convicting me publicly”. Shorten denied the allegations however they have been raised again in relation to the political culture debate.Jump to next article