Australia’s attorney general has revealed himself as the unidentified minister accused of raping a 16-year-old girl, denying the decades-old claim on Wednesday and trying to draw a line in a crisis that is consuming the country’s conservative government.
After a week full of speculation that rocked Australian politics, 50-year-old Christian Porter – the government’s top lawyer and former public prosecutor – tearfully denied the mistakes, saying “what is being alleged has not happened”.
He is accused of raping a fellow student in 1988 while they were participating in a debate competition at the University of Sydney.
Porter insisted that he would not resign, but would take a few “short weeks” off to deal with the mental strain caused by the charges, while also hiring a leading libel lawyer.
“I discussed with the Prime Minister today that, after speaking with my doctor, I am going to take a brief period of leave to evaluate and, hopefully, improve my mental health,” he said.
Porter was forced to come forward after senior lawmakers received a dossier containing the allegations of the alleged victim, who died last year before making a formal complaint to the police.
His death – reported as suicide – is the subject of an ongoing investigation by a coroner.
Although Porter’s identity as a defendant was widely known, Australia’s defamation rules prevented the media from mentioning him publicly.
The Western Australia representative insisted that he was the victim of a “whisper campaign” and “frantic politicization” conducted by the media.
“I didn’t sleep with the victim,” said Porter. “I remember the person as an intelligent, brilliant and happy person.”
“To many caring family members and friends who asked me this question over the past week, ‘Are you okay?’ I have to say … I don’t really know, “he said, collapsing.
Porter appeared on camera the day after police said they had found “insufficient admissible evidence to proceed” with the case.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison insisted that the allegations were a matter for the police, but now there are more and more calls for an independent investigation.
– Scandal and crisis –
Morrison’s government has been shaken by a series of sexual assault scandals in recent months, including dire allegations that a young employee was raped by a colleague in the parliamentary office of now Defense Minister Linda Reynolds.
Brittany Higgins, 26, said she was treated as a “political problem” when she reported the 2019 incident, which occurred just a month before the national elections.
Reynolds also took sick leave after the charges.
Morrison initially defended the way his government handled the crisis, but apologized in the midst of growing public outrage.
Australia’s parliament has been repeatedly criticized for a “toxic” workplace culture that has led to intimidation, harassment and persistent sexual misconduct against women.
The governing coalition was also accused of having a “problem with women”, with a flurry of women politicians resigning parliament before the 2019 election and several citing bullying as a factor.
Last week, Nicolle Flint, a leading liberal parliamentarian who publicly complained about sexist abuse, said he would resign in the next election.
Morrison announced that two government officials will conduct evaluations of the process of reporting sexual violence and workplace culture in parliament.
But critics believe the work should be done at a distance from the government.
Lawmakers from smaller parties wrote to Morrison demanding an “urgent external review” of current policies and the establishment of an independent body to oversee future workplace complaints.
arb / leg