Australian Attorney General Christian Porter, the nation’s chief law officer, yesterday categorically denied that he raped a 16-year-old friend in 1988, when he would have been 17, adding that he would not resign and suggesting that if he did, “there would be no rule of law left to protect.”
An emotional Porter fronted journalists in Perth after days of speculation about the identity of the minister who was the subject of the historical rape allegation.
He confirmed he was the person who had been named by the now deceased woman, but denied he sexually assaulted her.
“Nothing in the allegations that have been printed ever happened,” he said.
He added that he intended to remain in his portfolio, but would take a short break to tend to his mental health.
He said if he was to step down “then any person in Australia can lose their career, their job, their life’s work based on nothing more than an accusation that appears in print.”
Asked whether it was appropriate for him to remain as attorney general, Porter said societies had due process for a reason.
“My guess is if I were to resign, and that set a new standard, there wouldn’t be much need for an attorney general anyway because there would be no rule of law left to protect in this country,” he said.
“So I will not be part of letting that happen while I am attorney general, and I am sure you will ask, and I will state to you, I am not standing down or aside,” he added.
Porter said it was ultimately up to others to determine whether or not there should be an independent inquiry into the allegations now the New South Wales police had ended its investigations.
Even though such inquiries are commonplace when allegations are leveled in corporations, Porter queried what such an inquiry could achieve.
He said he would be asked “to disprove something that happened 33 years ago — I honestly don’t know what I would say to that inquiry.”
He said such a process would not afford him procedural fairness, because he “couldn’t succeed to disapprove something.”
Porter said he had been subjected to trial by media in a “hyper-politicized world” and contended that various allegations had been published without first being put to him.
The Guardian Australia contacted Porter’s office for comment about the allegations on Friday, and then twice this week. Calls, e-mails and texts were not returned.
The attorney general said he had never seen a letter from the woman’s friends sent to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlining the allegations against him. The letter included an attached statement from the woman recording her recollections of events in January 1988.
While Porter categorically denied the sexual assault allegations, he acknowledged that some of the now deceased woman’s recollections articulated in her statement might have been accurate.
He said he remembered the woman showing “three boys” how to iron a shirt.
Asked whether he had told her she would make a wonderful wife one day, Porter said: “I don’t remember that specifically, but it is not impossible that that was said.”
Porter said he also remembered there had been a formal dinner at the university where they stayed in 1988, and “going out dancing sounds about right.”
When asked whether he recalled going out for dinner, then going dancing and then walking the woman back to her room, Porter said: “That may well be the case,” before saying it was 33 years ago.
Asked whether he could have forgotten other details of events three decades ago, Porter said: “Could I have forgotten or misconstrued the things that I have read, which are said to have occurred? Absolutely not. They just didn’t happen.”
Australian Minister for Industrial Relations Michaelia Cash is to stand in as acting attorney general while Porter takes leave, a spokesman for Morrison said.
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