Morrison won't move Porter from portfolio

Christian Porter is "an innocent man under our law" and will not be moved from his portfolio, Scott Morrison says.

The Attorney-General has vigorously denied the allegation he raped a 16-year-old in 1988, with police unable to pursue the matter after the alleged victim took her own life last year.

Despite the unusual circumstances surrounding the case, Mr Morrison has rejected calls for an independent probe.

And he rejected claims it was untenable for Mr Porter to continue as the nation's chief law officer under a cloud, saying moving him from his portfolio would have no legal basis.

"He is an innocent man under our law," Mr Morrison said.

"To suggest there should be some different treatment applied to him, based on what had been allegations that the police have closed the matter on … I think would be grossly inappropriate."

Mr Morrison said reports the Legal Practice Board of WA had referred the allegation was a "matter for them" but said every Australian was entitled to the same treatment under the rule of law.

"That is the fair go you get under our rule of law in this country. And I will not be one to undermine it," he said.

But former solicitor-general Justin Gleeson said an independent probe into the matter would be a "circuit breaker" as Mr Porter was unable to draw a line under the matter.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus backed that call on Wednesday, urging Mr Morrison to seek advice from the current solicitor-general.

"I'm very confident (he) will explain to the Prime Minister that his excuses about the rule of law are absurd," he told the ABC.

"I've spoken to very, very many lawyers about this; not one of them thinks that the calling of an independent inquiry is a threat to the rule of law."

EARLIER: 

Julie Bishop says an inquest into the death of the woman who accused Attorney-General Christian Porter of a historical rape was the "next logical step".

It comes after Mr Porter publicly denied allegations he raped a 16-year-old girl during a debate competition at the University of Sydney in 1988, when he was 17.

Speaking on ABC 7.30, Ms Bishop backed the inquest into the South Australian woman's death.

"It's within the criminal system, there are checks and balances, there are statutory powers, it has legal standing and so that is the next step, and I understand from media reporting that that's what the family would welcome," she said.

On Wednesday the Attorney-General broke his silence about the rape allegations at a press conference in Perth, and denied any wrongdoing.

Former foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop addresses the alleged toxic culture in parliament. Picture: ABC
Former foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop addresses the alleged toxic culture in parliament. Picture: ABC

He spoke after police in NSW said there was "insufficient admissible evidence" to go ahead with an investigation into the claims.

Malcolm Turnbull today said Mr Porter was "absolutely right to have outed himself".

But he added, "He should have done it sooner".

The former prime minister said an independent inquiry should be held into the matter.

"I think in practical terms, looking at this as both political and legal terms, the best thing that could happen for Christian Porter is for there to be an inquiry. Because that would enable there to be a process which would enable the issue to be resolved," Mr Turnbull said.

"If I was in Porter's position, I would have defended himself and then said - I'm open to an inquiry by a retired judge, the usual sort of impartial expert person that we appoint. But I think that would be in his best interests. But that's not something that either he or the Government wants, so I guess it won't happen."

It comes as more details emerged about the rape accusers mental health.

Four Corners last night revealed the woman was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had been hospitalised. She attempted suicide several times.

Ultimately, the COVID pandemic stymied her plans to make her formal statement to police.

She became very depressed and checked herself into a psychiatric clinic in Melbourne.

The week after she left the clinic, she told police she did not want to proceed with the complaint.

The day after that, on June 24, at her home in Adelaide, she took her own life.

PORTER ACCUSER SAW COUNSELLOR EIGHTS YEARS AGO

A sexual assault counsellor says the woman at the centre of the Christian Porter rape allegation sought her help eight years ago and was torn about whether she should take the matter further.

In a segment being aired on Four Corners, the counsellor says she saw the woman for the first time in about 2013 and saw her again about six times.

She confided in the counsellor about a boy called Christian and that both had been debaters.

The counsellor told the program that the woman was "extremely articulate" and "not delusional".

She said that the woman was torn about taking the matter further because it could ruin the man's life.

The woman went away and "was going to sit on that. She obviously sat on it for about five years," the counsellor told Four Corners.

 

The Guardian on Monday revealed Health Minister Greg Hunt and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher were also at the debating competition.

Mr Hunt was at the tournament as a member of the University of Melbourne team.

His spokesperson said "to the best of his knowledge, he had never met the woman nor is it a name that he recognises".

"He is also not aware of having met Mr Porter until he was a member of parliament.

"He also notes that as he is considerably older than Mr Porter (five years), they debated in different periods. But as always when there are 100s of people at events he is unable to know all those who attended."

Mr Fletcher - a World University Debating Championships grand-finalist in 1986 - attended the tournament in 1988 as an adjudicator. A spokesman for Fletcher declined to comment.

BARNABY CALLS FOR PORTER INQUIRY

Former National party leader Barnaby Joyce has called for an inquiry into allegations levelled against the Attorney-General instead of a "salacious" inquisition.

"Christian Porter may not want an independent inquiry but he has got one by default. A demeaning, cathartic inquisition by the press and Opposition," Mr Joyce wrote in a lengthy social media post.

The Nationals MP called for a "confidential" inquiry into the allegations levelled at the country's chief law officer.

Mr Joyce said the media coverage achieved little "beyond ratings as salacious dissonance" and did not offer solace to any party involved.

Barnaby Joyce. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage
Barnaby Joyce. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage

It would be a more dignified and appropriate alternative for an "emotive and serious allegation", he wrote.

"Otherwise the current vacuum may hang like fog all the way through the rest of a quite remarkable career."

The former deputy Prime Minister referenced allegations he faced from a WA woman in the post and said he would have liked to run "at the speed of a thousand gazelles" to an independent arbiter if he could have.

"There wasn't one, so I stood down to 'clear the air' as I stated at my resignation press conference," Mr Joyce said.

In 2018 a woman made a formal complaint against Mr Joyce to the National Party in relation to sexual harassment allegations.

The complaint was leaked to the media against the woman's wishes at the time and Mr Joyce later resigned labelling the allegations as "the straw that broke the camel's back".

 

The MP also took aim at his Coalition colleagues in the post.

"I don't want Christian to end up sitting at the back of the chamber under the exit sign where my colleagues have kindly placed me," Mr Joyce wrote.

He said Mr Porter would know many in the opposition and some in his own party wouldn't want the truth unless it came with "his head on a plate".

The claims came to light after an anonymous letter was sent to the Prime Minister, Labor Senator Penny Wong and Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

The woman at the centre of the claims made a report to the police in 2019, however did not complete her formal statement and took her own life at Adelaide in June 2020.

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Originally published as Inquest into Porter rape accuser's death 'next logical step': Bishop


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