Note: this story contains references to sexual assault.
Friends of the woman who alleged she was raped by Attorney-General Christian Porter during a school debate trip in 1988 are disheartened and saddened by the government’s response — or lack thereof — to the allegations.
Despite many providing their contact details in a letter given to several politicians outlining the allegations, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Crikey understands no one named in that letter has been contacted by anyone within the Morrison government.
The friends are calling for an independent inquiry along with a procedural overhaul in how the government deals with sexual assault allegations.
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Christian Porter yesterday fronted the media to deny all allegations made against him.
Ian Wilkins was a debate teammate of the woman in 1988, first meeting her several months after the alleged incident took place. The woman, who’s name the media has decided not to publish, died by suicide last year just months after contacting NSW Police about the incident.
“It’s clear that there’s a culture generally within the Liberal Party and probably within the Parliament of Australia, just like a whole bunch of other institutions like the Catholic Church, where they fail to support victims of sexual assault,” Wilkins said.
“In more subtle ways they condone behaviours that are the precursors to that. That’s clearly still the case, even at the very top levels of the Australian government.”
Yesterday, after a storm of speculation, Porter named himself as the person at the centre of the allegations. He said he would be taking a period of mental health leave but would not be standing down from his role as attorney-general.
“If I were to resign and that set a new standard, well there wouldn’t be much need for an attorney-general anyway because there will be no rule of law left to protect in this country,” he said.
Temporarily standing down from a role while an inquiry takes place is common and is not an admission of guilt.
Wilkins said he hopes that to save its reputation, the Morrison government will reform the process for dealing with allegations and hand investigative power over to an independent party.
“That’s about the best we could hope for now,” he said.
Ignorance beggars belief
Another friend, who asked to remain anonymous, told Crikey that while he was happy Porter seemed sympathetic to the woman’s family in his media address, more action was needed.
“I hope that now people know that it’s the attorney-general [that] a proper process needs to occur both for [the woman] and to be fair to [Porter],” he said.
He was upset both Morrison and Porter said they hadn’t read the letter or the statement, both of which have been seen by Crikey.
“You’ve got the two most senior relevant government people saying they haven’t read the letter and the statement,” he said. “It beggars belief.”
The friend said Porter should have called NSW Police when he first heard about the allegations.
“I was just so surprised that [his media address] was basically, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about but I didn’t do it’,” he said.
“I spent most of the day feeling physically sick.”
Former Liberal candidate Jeremy Samuel also first met the woman several months after the alleged rape. He told Crikey there had been a “stonewall” from the government.
“We need to get some resolution,” Samuel said, pointing out the need for an independent inquiry.
“If there’s a finding so be it, and if there’s no evidence then we should all move on, but it needs to be brought to some closure,” he said.
Samuel said the woman was brilliant and bright.
“She was super smart and just had a wicked sense of humour and didn’t suffer fools.”
NSW Police, the Prime Minister’s Office and representatives for Christian Porter did not respond to Crikey’s request for comment by deadline.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.