Why NSW Police never interviewed Christian Porter

NSW Police have revealed why they never interviewed former Attorney-General Christian Porter over a 1988 rape allegation and confirmed the alleged victim tried to deliver a statement via Skype during the coronavirus lockdowns.

Outlining new information about how the case was handled, police have confirmed the woman who accused Mr Porter of rape asked to deliver her witness statement via Skype during the COVID-19 pandemic – a request the NSW Police resisted and her friends and family were never interviewed after her death.

The woman ultimately decided to withdraw her complaint after COVID delayed the meeting with detectives and died by suicide at home just 24 hours later.

Mr Porter strenuously denies the allegations that relate to a 1988 debating conference in Sydney. He has launched defamation action against the ABC over the reporting of an anonymous letter sent to the Prime Minister setting out allegations against a member of Cabinet.

He subsequently self-identified himself as the target of the allegations.

RELATED: NSW Police never got letter outlining allegations

It was the woman’s decision to withdraw the complaint that resulted in police not interviewing Mr Porter after her death, according to NSW Police.

“It is current standard practice that once a signed victim statement has been obtained from a victim and further corroborative enquiries are made, the formal allegation can and should be put to the person of interest as per procedural fairness principles for investigators,” NSW Police said.

“On June 23, 2020 the (alleged) victim clearly communicated to investigators that she no longer felt able to proceed with the report. The NSWPF did not have a signed statement from the (alleged) victim, hence no formal allegation to put to the person of interest. In keeping with the (alleged) victim’s wishes no further investigation took place and the person of interest was not interviewed.”

NSW Police established Strike Force Wyndarra in February 2020 after receiving information from Mr Porter’s accuser.

Detectives from Strike Force Wyndarra were due to travel to Adelaide to take the woman’s formal statement in March 2020 but their trip was postponed after the COVID-19 outbreak.

RELATED: Accuser’s family begs media not to identify daughter

On Wednesday June 24, 2020, the woman’s body was located at a home at Adelaide by South Australia Police. She had committed suicide just hours after telling police she did not want to proceed with a formal complaint.

In answers to questions on notice, NSW Police confirmed the complainant did ask to provide a formal statement over the telephone or via video.

“Yes. On April 1, 2020, the (alleged) victim requested that she commence her statement by way of Skype,” the response states.

“Investigators consulted with the (alleged) victim on April 2, 2020 by way of teleconference. Options were presented to the (alleged) victim in relation to obtaining her statement. A joint decision by all parties was made not to conduct the interview remotely. There were a number of reasons which led to this decision. The (alleged) victim was understanding and supportive of this decision.”

NSW Police also confirmed they made six telephone calls to the woman which were not answered.

RELATED: Porter, Reynolds moved in Cabinet reshuffle

The alleged victim also made two telephone calls to investigators which were not answered. On both occasions the woman’s missed calls were returned within seven minutes and five hours and 26 minutes respectively.

NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge said the responses from NSW Police demanded further explanation.

“These answers raise yet more questions about the response of the NSW Police,” he said.

“When you speak to experienced investigators who have dealt with historical allegations they will tell you it’s not perfect but sometimes it’s the only option to take a statement by phone or video link.

“What is very distressing here is that this was an option that was requested by the complainant and open to police but for whatever reason was taken off the table.”

The answers provided also detail the Australian Federal Police decision to brief the NSW Police on the letter outlining the allegations rather than send it to investigators in full.

The letter requested urgent action be taken by the Prime Minister to investigate the 1988 alleged rape.

RELATED: Details of Porter’s ABC defamation suit

It urged the Prime Minister to set up an independent parliamentary investigation into the matter, similar to that commissioned by the High Court into allegations against former Justice, Dyson Heydon.

“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 letter states.

“This is occurring today in relation to Brittany Higgins. The loss of respect for our political institutions will be exacerbated.

“There will be considerable damage to community perceptions of justice … and the parliament when this story becomes public if it is simultaneously revealed that senior people (like yourselves) were aware of the accusation but had done nothing.

“Failing to take parliamentary action because the NSW Police cannot take criminal action would seem like wilful blindness.”

The South Australia Coroner is yet to determine whether to conduct a public inquest into the woman’s death.

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AEC launches investigation into Andrew Laming’s social media accounts

The actions of embattled Liberal MP Andrew Laming have again come under the microscope, with the Australian Electoral Commission confirming they have launched an investigation into his social media accounts.

The probe was sparked by revelations the federal member for Bowman created more than 30 Facebook pages and profiles to promote the LNP and attack Labor opponents.

Mr Laming is alleged to have operated the pages under the guise of community groups, news pages and an educational institute, The Guardian reports.

However, none of the pages include political authorisation disclosures required under the laws governing electoral communication.

“With regard to the Facebook activity mentioned in the Guardian article published yesterday, I can confirm that we will be investigating the requirement for electoral authorisation,” an AEC spokesman said in a statement.

“A key purpose of the authorisation laws is to allow voters to know who is communicating.

“To require an authorisation statement the communication needs to be deemed ‘electoral matter’.”

Mr Laming, who is on a month of medical leave, refused to comment on the investigation.

The development is another blow for the Morrison government – which is requiring Mr Laming to undergo empathy training – after he took a photograph of a woman with her underwear exposed in a Brisbane shop.

Police last month confirmed they would not file charges.

He was also forced to apologise for harassing a series of women online.

In the wake of the scandals, Mr Laming announced last month he would not run again at the next election.

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Qld premier Annastacia Palaszczuk demands PM Scott Morrison calls a women’s summit

The Queensland premier will write to the Prime Minister on Wednesday demanding he call a national women’s summit in the wake of the horrific sexual assault scandals exposed this year.

Annastacia Palaszczuk said “now is the time” following the groundswell of support in the March 4 Justice, which was inspired by allegations from former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins of rape in parliament as well as historic sexual assault claims against former Attorney-General Christian Porter.

The premier said she will ask Scott Morrison to place the demand on the agenda for Friday’s National Cabinet, hoping to place the spotlight on wide-ranging gender inequality plaguing Australian workplaces, culture and policy.

“This is really important to look at gender inequality, to look at economic inequality, to look at actions to address the gender pay gap, actions to address the superannuation gap, issues around addressing issues of affordable child care,” she told reporters.

RELATED: Qld health minister says she was groped in parliament

“This is a huge issue for women out there in our community — time and time again my sisters have told me and other members of the community how expensive it is for child care when you’re working.

“These are really big issues in terms of women’s equality.”

Ms Palaszczuk’s colleagues have been vocal in revealing personal stories in the last few months of alleged assault in and out of workplaces.

In a special motion initiated by the premier in Queensland parliament last month, an impassioned series of speeches from ministers and MPs from either side of politics detailed horrific stories of assault.

Among these was the Health Minister Yvette D’Ath who said she was assaulted during a function at work.

“Two years ago as the Attorney-General I was groped by an international judge at a conference in this parliament,” she said.

“This is still happening today and it has to stop.”

The courage to come forward and share their stories to inspire change was applauded by Ms Palaszczuk, who said the “time is now right” to stamp out issues of assault.

“What we have seen over the last few months is a huge wave of support for women to have their voices heard and I think the time is now right to have a national women’s summit,” she told reporters on Wednesday.

“I will be asking the other leaders to support this.”

The premier said she was open to hosting the summit in Queensland or leaders congregating in Canberra to meet and discuss change.

Quotas within Ms Palaszczuk’s Labor cabinet have allowed the state government to voice issues for women through a 50 per cent female representation, she said.

“We have made huge inroads in Queensland when it comes to making sure that we have 50 per cent women on our government boards, making sure we address issues like domestic and family violence, making sure we have set up a task force headed by respected former judge Margaret McMurdo to look at the way women are treated in the criminal justice system,” the premier said.

“I honestly believe that if we are going to achieve equality in this country, then now is the time.

“Now is the time for us to have a national women’s summit.”

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Tanya Plibersek lashes Scott Morrison over ‘Prime Minister for Women’ comment

Tanya Plibersek has lashed Scott Morrison for suggesting Marise Payne would effectively become the “Prime Minister for Women”, and says he only acted once he realised he had a political problem.

The prime minister was present in Canberra on Tuesday for the swearing-in of his new-look cabinet, which saw a group of female ministers promoted to senior roles.

Mr Morrison used the announcement on Monday to declare “getting results for women” was priority for his government, which has faced months of allegations ranging from sexual harassment to rape.

But he raised eyebrows on Monday when he suggested Ms Payne, who will co-chair a task-force on women’s equality, would “effectively amongst her female colleagues (be) the prime Minister for Women”.

He later clarified that title as the “primary Minister for Women” to “ensure that no one gets too carried away with puns for later”.

RELATED: Scott Morrison announces latest cabinet reshuffle

But Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek said the remark showed Mr Morrison failed to fully grasp the issue, despite publicly attempting to reset the narrative.

“Scott Morrison said blokes don’t always get it right. I’m waiting for the time that he does actually get it right,” she said on Tuesday.

“What a nonsense proposition that we have a government that is half for men and half for women.”

The reshuffle included promotions for Michaelia Cash, who replaced Christian Porter as Attorney-General, and Karen Andrews, who has become the Home Affairs Minister.

Jane Hume, Amanda Stoker, Anne Ruston and Melissa Price were also given additional responsibilities.

Ms Andrews said the task-force into women’s equality would take a wide-ranging view to understand issues facing women in politics, brought into sharp focus since former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins alleged she was raped in Parliament House in 2019.

“It is the responsibility of everyone on that task-force to properly represent the views of women,” Ms Andrews told Sky News.

Ms Plibersek said she hoped the promotion of more women to cabinet would “make a difference” and Labor was willing to work with the government to achieve progress.

She said the prime minister “finally taking this seriously” was “a sign he’s worried”.

But she urged him to implement a range of measures, including ten days paid domestic violence leave, 26 weeks of paid parental leave, and steps to reduce the gender pay and superannuation gaps.

Ms Plibersek accused the government of being “negligent” over its failure to implement recommendations from the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, more than a year since receiving them.

“It’s shameful that it hasn’t been dealt with until now, that it’s only being dealt with now because the government’s got a political problem that it needs to fix,” she said.

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How Scott Morrison can save himself after six weeks of scandals

Over the past six weeks, Scott Morrison’s government has been pummelled with scandal after scandal.

In mid-February, news.com.au revealed allegations from former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins, who claimed she was raped by a fellow colleague in the office of Defence Minister Linda Reynolds.

Since that time, a litany of shocking stories about alleged misconduct have hit the government. The Attorney-General Christian Porter outed himself as the unnamed Minister at the centre of a historic rape allegation, and vehemently denied the claim.

After a heated and emotional press conference, Mr Porter took almost a month of mental health leave, during which time he commenced defamation proceedings against the ABC.

It was also leaked that Ms Reynolds referred to Ms Higgins as a “lying cow”. Ms Reynolds was admitted to hospital shortly after the revelations for a pre-existing heart condition.

Further scandals include footage of a Liberal staffer masturbating on the desk of a female MP.

Over the weekend, Queensland Liberal Andrew Laming announced he’d quit politics at the next election, after it emerged he’d taken photos up a woman’s skirt as she bent over to fill a fridge with drinks.

For now, Mr Laming will take medical leave to enter residential rehab – similarly to Mr Porter and Ms Reynolds.

A new Newspoll published today by The Australian revealed after of six weeks of scandals, voter satisfaction with the PM had plunged seven points – falling from 62 per cent to 55 in the last two weeks.

RELATED: Radio star sacked over Brittany slur

Today Mr Porter and Senator Reynolds were stripped of their portfolios as the Prime Minister rearranged his front bench as a way to put an end to the chaos and crisis engulfing government.

Louise Chappell, Scientia Professor from UNSW said it’s possible for Mr Morrison to turn this disastrous period around.

“I suggest Australia’s political class need to recognise three problems,” Professor Chappell, an expert in women’s rights, gender, politics and institutions wrote in The Conversation.

It’s not just about men in parliament being bad

She said politicians need understand it’s not about “men behaving badly or about women being victims”. Organisations can have embedded cultures of what’s appropriate for men and women.

“By this I mean there are deeply embedded norms of behaviour – in this case masculine norms – that become the accepted ways of acting within an organisation,” Professor Chappell wrote.

“We see a gendered logic of appropriateness in the Australian parliament, reflected in its bullying culture, its adversarial debates and name calling.

“This is disguised as ‘politics as usual’ and, unlike in other workplaces, it is protected by parliamentary privilege.”

But recent revelations make it now “undeniable” that those norms are supporting the mistreatment of women, from catcalls to abuse, she said.

Acknowledge the power imbalance in parliament

“They must acknowledge the steep, deeply entrenched and gendered asymmetric power relations that structure the parliamentary arena,” Professor Chappell wrote.

“It is a deeply hierarchical place, and men dominate the upper echelons.

“These asymmetries exist at every level – within Cabinet, and between it and backbenches, between government members and Opposition, among ministerial offices and between them and bureaucratic agencies, between ministerial and parliamentary operational staff, and parliamentarians and the media.”

Male MPs all come from a specific part of society

The majority of men in parliament are “white, university-educated and from private schools, middle-class men,” Professor Chappell notes.

“Aside from their political differences, they share most other things in common (too).”

This includes their similar political careers – involving them working through small political structures with “immature, winner-takes-all, university politics”.

“It is in these political parties that women and other marginalised groups first struggle to fit to the gendered status quo that dominates our political party system.”

So how to fix the problems in parliament?

1. Implement new laws

1. Professor Chappell recommended implementing rules making derogatory speech, verbal and physical acts of bullying and sexual harassment and abuse illegal.

Along with this, standard HR mechanisms need to be available to all workers at Parliament House, and compensation and reparation measures should be available for people who experience sexual abuse.

It’s ultimately up to political leaders to ensure these measures are made available.

2. Introduce a new reporting system

While power is an unmovable feature of politics, it’s not impossible to be able to report abuse of power within the system.

Professor Chappell suggests developing new systems to allow individuals to report abuse which empower victims and give them privacy.

“The ALP has started this process with its recent policy on sexual harassment but it needs to go much further to address more serious forms of abuse,” she writes.

“The Liberal Party has developed a national code of conduct, but with vague enforcement mechanisms and sanctions left up to state branches.”

3. Increase diversity

Professor Chappell said increasing diversity within parliament will better represent the wider Australian community and “disrupt the status quo”.

“Given recent events, Liberal and National members’ application of a ‘merit’ argument to defend against quotas has been well and truly debunked,” she said.

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Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds lose Attorney-General in major Cabinet reshuffle

Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds have been stripped of their portfolios, with Prime Minster Scott Morrison announcing a cabinet reshuffle after several weeks of chaos.

Mr Porter will lose the Attorney-General post and Ms Reynolds has been dumped from the Defence Ministry.

Mr Porter announced he was going on mental health leave at a press conference on March 3, in which he vehemently denied a historical claim that he raped a 16-year-old girl.

He has been under pressure to resign after he revealed himself as the minister at the centre of the rape allegation.

Mr Porter has never been charged and police confirmed there was “insufficient evidence” to proceed with an investigation, labelling the matter “closed”.

His decision to launch defamation proceedings against the ABC and journalist Louise Milligan saw calls for him to be removed from his position intensify, over conflict of interest concerns.

Meanwhile, Senator Reynolds has been on leave since February after being admitted to hospital to receive treatment for a pre-existing heart condition.

She has faced intense criticism over her handling of Brittany Higgins’ alleged rape in Parliament House — first reported by news.com.au in February this year.

The former Liberal Party staffer has alleged she was raped at Parliament House in Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ ministerial office by a colleague.

Police are investigating the incident and a political inquiry was suspended on Monday over concerns it could interfere with the criminal probe.

The Morrison government has been under renewed pressure since the publication last week of “disgusting” images and videos of male senior government staff performing sex acts in Parliament House.

A shambolic press conference by Scott Morrison the next day, in which he falsely claimed News Corp Australia – publisher of news.com.au – was subject to its own harassment investigation, saw criticism intensify.

On top of that, the saga surrounding Queensland MP Andrew Laming has added fuel to the fire, with him now saying he won’t contest the next election.

More to come …

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Anne Webster makes fresh claim of sexual harassment inside parliament

A female Coalition MP has come forward with a fresh allegation of sexual harassment, this time inside the House of Representatives.

Nationals MP Anne Webster has lodged a formal complaint after alleging she was harassed by an unnamed male MP in the lower house last week.

The government has been rocked by a series of sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations for over a month.

Dr Webster said it was not the first time she had experienced harassment in parliament but, given the context, last week’s incident left her “dumbfounded”.

“My first thought was: ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. I mean, really?’” she told ABC radio on Monday.

“Because it wasn’t the first time and so for me it was, like: ‘No, I have to actually address this.’”

She revealed she had spoken to the man at the centre of the complaint, saying parliament needed to reform its standards for acceptable workplace behaviour.

“He assures me it won’t happen again,” she said.

Dr Webster is the National party’s point of contact as parliament responds to a wave of allegations, but said she was surprised to have to utilise the complaints process herself.

“I just didn’t think that I would be walking through it myself and needing to call on the finance department counselling service last week,” she said.

Canberra has been shocked by a series of revelations over men’s mistreatment of women, ranging from sexual harassment to rape.

Last week, a Liberal staffer was forced to resign after it was revealed he had sent images of himself masturbating over a female MP’s desk to colleagues.

On the weekend, Liberal MP Andrew Laming confirmed he would undergo empathy training and not contest the next election, after admitting to abusing constituents online.

Dr Webster described Mr Laming’s behaviour as “appalling”, but said there was a distinct mood for change among people she had spoken to.

“This is not about the emasculation of men,” she said.

“It’s about how do we work together to achieve the greatest outcomes in our capacities in which we are working and how do we understand one another better and keep it above board.”

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New roles for Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will unveil a new frontbench on Monday after two of his ministers have spent weeks engulfed in scandal.

Attorney-General Christian Porter and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds are set to be dumped from their roles in the second cabinet shake-up in just four months.

Both ministers, who are on medical leave, are expected to remain on the frontbench upon their return.

The latest reshuffle was triggered after Mr Morrison received advice from the Solicitor-General that there was a perceived conflict of interest if Mr Porter – who has denied historical rape allegations made against him – stayed in the role of Australia’s first law officer.

Senator Reynolds, who is on leave due to a pre-existing heart condition, was criticised for her handling of former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins’s rape allegations.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash is tipped to be promoted to attorney-general, while Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is first in line for the job as Defence minister.

The Prime Minister’s approval ratings have plummeted in a new opinion poll following intense scrutiny of his leadership on the issue of treatment towards women at Parliament House.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was on Monday morning asked if he had confidence in the Prime Minister.

“Absolutely,” he told ABC.

Mr Frydenberg said Mr Morrison had been the first to recognise that he could have handled the broader issue of the treatment of women better.

“He has publicly said that, and he is working hard behind the scenes to put in place a series of new policies, and new responses that will help improve the situation going forward,” Mr Frydenberg said.

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