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Rape allegations 'not enough' to stand down cabinet minister, says PM


Prime Minister Scott Morrison says allegations of rape against a cabinet minister are not enough for him to take action under the ministerial code of conduct.

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Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, Labor’s Penny Wong and Morrison were sent a letter detailing the complaint last week.

The incident is alleged to have occurred in 1988 when the woman was 16.

The woman went to NSW police last year, but the investigation was suspended when she took her own life in Adelaide in June 2020 after telling authorities she didn’t want to proceed.

South Australia Police are now preparing a report for the coroner.

Morrison said he had been briefed on the letter and spoken to the minister last Wednesday.

The minister had “vigorously and completely denied the allegations”, he said.

The prime minister also spoke with the federal police commissioner last week.

“At this stage, the commissioner has raised no issue with me – and the (prime minister’s) department secretary was present for that call as well – that would cause me to take action under the ministerial code,” Morrison told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

He said “distressing” issues had been raised, but the proper action was for police to deal with them.

“That’s how our country operates. That system protects all Australians.”

Marque Lawyers, which represented the woman when she took the complaint to police, used Twitter to query the prime minister’s comments.

“It is surprising to hear the prime minister say that he hasn’t read the detailed written allegation of sexual assault of a child, made against a senior member of his cabinet, but only been ‘briefed’ on it.”

The lawyers also questioned why the prime minister had accepted the minister’s denial at face value without investigating further.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said the prime minister had the power to act, based on the probability of a crime occurring.

“The prime minister can decide who sits around that cabinet table and drop them for any reason they want,” McManus told the ABC.

“If they think that it’s likely that it did happen then they should not be there.”

Senator Hanson-Young believes the minister must stand aside pending an independent investigation by an eminent former judge.

“Sitting around that table erodes the trust the integrity and belief that this government takes sexual assault seriously,” she said.

Meanwhile, Liberal senator Sarah Henderson has forwarded police an email from a woman who claims she was raped by a serving Labor MP.

The AFP confirmed they received a complaint relating to an historical sexual assault but would not comment further.

Sexual assault allegations have sparked national debate about political culture after former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins said she was raped by a colleague in Parliament House.

Four inquiries are under way, including a multi-party investigation aimed at ensuring parliament is a safe working environment.

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