Australian PM says cabinet minister accused of rape 'vigorously' denies allegation

03 Mars, 2021, 13:12 | Auteur: Yves Courtet
  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was already under pressure over the workplace culture at Parliament House after a former government media adviser said last month that in 2019 she was raped by a fellow staffer in a minister’s office. | AFP-JIJI

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is under increasing pressure to address what's been described as a toxic culture in Australia's Parliament, as police investigate an alleged rape in the 1980s involving a politician who is now a Cabinet minister.

Morrison said the unnamed Cabinet minister "vigorously and completely denied the allegations".

While the ruling means Morrison will not have to suspend the minister as directed by parliamentary rules, it does little to ease pressure on his government.

Following Higgins' case, the Australian police and government officials had urged women to come forward and report such cases to the police by filing an official complaint, so that the officers can follow protocols and serve justice.

The woman went to NSW Police past year but the investigation was suspended when she took her own life in June 2020 after telling authorities she didn't want to proceed.

According to the letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, the rape happened in Sydney in 1988.

Opposition senator Sarah Hanson-Young - who also received the letter and forwarded it to police - said there was "no prospect" of having the case heard and an independent investigation should be established.

"It is the police, in a country where you're governed by the rule of law, that determine the veracity of any allegations of this nature", Morrison said in a testy exchange with journalists today.

"Based on information provided to NSW Police, there is insufficient admissible evidence to proceed", police said in a statement.

"NSW Police Force has determined the matter is now closed", it said in an email.

"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 yesterday.

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"However, the question here is we have a Cabinet Minister with a very serious allegation against him, the issue is whether he can continue in his role".

Wong said she met the complainant in 2019 and the complainant detailed her allegation against the man, who was not in Parliament in 1988.

"Why did she suicide?"

"When news of [the complainant's alleged] rape becomes widely known to the public (as it most likely will), legitimate questions will be asked as to who knew what, when they knew and what they did", the correspondent wrote.

"If the minister had vigorously denied the claims to the Prime Minister, he should also deny them to the public", he told ABC Radio.

The poor treatment of women in the Australian parliament has recently been highlighted after a woman accused a government official of raping her, which was followed by a few other accusations from different women.

This is just the latest scandal to hit Morrison's government and Canberra politics this year.

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

Sexual assault allegations have rocked federal politics for more than two weeks 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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