Christian Porter, the Cabinet Minister who is the focus of a historical rape allegation, denied the claims as he made his first statement to the media on Wednesday.
“The things that have been claimed to have happened did not happen,” Porter told reporters at a press conference in Perth.
“Because what has been alleged did not happen, I must say so publicly.”
Late last week, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and Labor Senator Penny Wong, along with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, received a letter concerning an accusation of rape against the Attorney-General. Porter’s identity was not made public until Wednesday.
Porter continued: “Nothing in the allegations that have been printed ever happened.”
The letter was written by “friends” of a dead Adelaide woman who had earlier told police that she was raped in New South Wales (NSW) in 1988 when she was 16, reports news.com.au. The woman took her own life last year.
Porter said, before last Friday, he first heard about the allegations last November.
“I have never been contacted in any substantive form by anyone putting to me the details of what appears is now being alleged against me,” he said.
Police on Tuesday closed an investigation into the rape allegation after NSW authorities concluded there was insufficient evidence. The allegation had also been referred to the Australian Federal Police (AFP), which said it lacked jurisdiction to investigate.
“AFP’s role is to liaise and support and provide whatever advice those jurisdictions need in this matter,” AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw told Channel 9.
NSW Police Force said in an email that “the matter is now closed.”
It also said that the alleged victim had not made a formal statement to NSW Police detailing her account before she died last year. Police officials did obtain a “personal document” purportedly made by the woman, but were legally advised this was insufficient to proceed with an investigation, it said.
While that ruling means Morrison will not have to suspend the minister under parliamentary rules, it does little to ease pressure on his government.
The letter from the alleged victim’s friends asked that politicians “work together to find a pathway forward in this case that does justice to [her] memory”.
“In this case, [the woman] shared her story with many and begged people to help her seek justice. To date, defamation law and political inactivity have adversely affected the ability of [her] claim to be properly addressed,” the letter said.
“You could ask [intelligence specialist] Vivienne Thom to conduct a discrete preliminary investigation into the matter to see what facts can be established,” the letter continued. “Failure to take parliamentary action because the NSW Police cannot take criminal action would feel like a willful blindness.”
The letter referred to former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins, who came forward with her own allegations of sexual assault that are now being investigated by police.
Last month, Higgins and another female employee of Morrison’s Liberal party said they had been raped by the same man in 2019 and 2020.
The Australian newspaper last week published the account of a third woman who said she had been raped twice by the unnamed former Liberal party worker in 2016. A fourth woman has since made a complaint about the man, alleging inappropriate sexual behaviour in a Canberra bar..
With additional files from Alicia Vrajlal and Reuters.
Need help? In Australia, call 1800 RESPECT (737 732) for the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service