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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NSW grants inquiry lays blame for $252 million grants ‘rort’ on NSW Premier and Deputy Premier, seeks ICAC referral


A parliamentary report has laid the blame for “maladministration” of hundreds of millions in public money at the feet of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Deputy Premier John Barilaro.

Committee members vowed on Tuesday to refer the government‘s handling of the $252m Stronger Communities Fund to both the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the NSW Auditor-General.

“The Premier has argued in public that she’s never been accused of any wrongdoing. Well, the public accountability committee, with this report, is accusing the Premier of wrongdoing,” committee member and Labor MP John Graham said.

The committee will ask the upper house when it next sits in May to refer its investigation to the two independent watchdogs.

The fund in question was launched to benefit NSW councils that were forcibly merged but was later extended so that more councils were eligible.

The overwhelming majority of the money, 95 per cent, went to Coalition-held districts, the inquiry found.

That grants round was a “clear abuse of the grants process”, the committee wrote in its report.

Among the 13 findings the report made was that the Premier and Deputy Premier both approved projects to be funded but failed to adequately document the decision-making process.

In Ms Berejiklian’s case, the decision by her office to destroy documents used by the Premier to approve projects was declared unlawful by the State Archives and Records Authority in January, although the watchdog said it wouldn’t pursue legal action.

“I don’t think was just the committee that was disappointed when we saw the Premier’s office literally get away with breaking the law,” committee chair and Greens MP David Shoebridge said.

“Pretty much every member of the public I’ve spoken to since has said, ‘Why is there one rule for politicians and one rule but everybody else?’”

During its inquiry, the committee struggled to get a clear answer as to who was responsible for allocating money from the fund.

But in issuing its report, the members said it was clear to them the Premier and Deputy Premier were to blame.

“It is inconceivable that a quarter of a billion dollars of public money was handed out to project after project with no merit assessment, no documentation,” committee chair David Shoebridge said.

“And when we sought to find out who made the decisions, everybody ducked.”

Other findings included that the extension of the fund guidelines, so that councils that weren’t merged became eligible, were “deliberately devised to accommodate the pork-barrelling scheme”.

The report said the guidelines were written in order to settle a legal dispute between two councils, to “win favour with the public in Coalition and marginal seats ahead of the 2019 state election”, and to “punish” councils that had resisted the forced mergers.

As part of its broader inquiry into NSW grants, the committee will continue to look into other public funding schemes, including the administration of bushfire relief after the 2019-2020 bushfire catastrophe.

The report also included a range of recommendation to improve the grants process in the state so that there could be oversight into what money is being offered, what the criteria for each grant is, and who is responsible for handing out the money.

The Premier and Deputy Premier have been contacted for comment.



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Sydney anti-mask protesters at Westfield Bondi Junction slammed


A group of anti-mask protesters who marched through a popular shopping centre in Bondi Junction on Sunday have been slammed on social media.

Footage emerged of the protest that showed people holding signs that read “masks increase your risk of infection!” while marching through the Westfield shopping centre singing to the beat of man playing a large drum.

The display, which happened on the first day that new mask restrictions came into effect, did not impress some locals including public relations director and socialite Roxy Jacenko who posted footage of the protesters on her Instagram Stories, writing that it was “disgraceful”.

“Sorry. But people have died,” she wrote. “Put a f**king mask on. This does not sit well with me.”

She also noted that it was also disappointing to see kids being taught to have disregard for the advice of authorities.

NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge also posted footage of the protesters, noting that checking out the “right wing religious fringe” who oppose mask wearing was a great way to convince people to wear masks.

RELATED: Follow our live coronavirus updates

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the protesters sang “I would rather be a human than a slave” and “you can stick your sanitiser up your arse”.

New restrictions came into effect on Sunday that require people in Greater Sydney to wear a mask in places like shopping centres and on trains.

The Bondi Junction protest came ahead of a $200 fine that will be enforced from Monday.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in a statement that face masks would also be compulsory for staff in hospitality venues and casinos, and for patrons using gaming services.

Children under 12 are exempt but are encouraged to wear masks when possible.

The move to make masks mandatory has been supported by experts including University of New South Wales Professor of Epidemiology Mary-Louise McLaws.

“Masks are an important part of the infection prevention bundle,” she told the Today show on Sunday morning.

“Making it mandatory takes away the decision making by somebody who may not realise that they have the early phase of COVID, and they can spread it just by breathing out and of course by talking.”

NSW reported eight new coronavirus cases on Sunday while Victoria reported three new cases.

Thousands of people in Sydney have been asked to isolate after a second cluster was identified at a BWS bottle shop in the western Sydney suburb of Berala.



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Sydney anti-mask protesters at Westfield Bondi Junction slammed


A group of anti-mask protesters who marched through a popular shopping centre in Bondi Junction on Sunday have been slammed on social media.

Footage emerged of the protest that showed people holding signs that read “masks increase your risk of infection!” while marching through the Westfield shopping centre singing to the beat of man playing a large drum.

The display, which happened on the first day that new mask restrictions came into effect, did not impress some locals including public relations director and socialite Roxy Jacenko who posted footage of the protesters on her Instagram Stories, writing that it was “disgraceful”.

“Sorry. But people have died,” she wrote. “Put a f**king mask on. This does not sit well with me.”

She also noted that it was also disappointing to see kids being taught to have disregard for the advice of authorities.

NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge also posted footage of the protesters, noting that checking out the “right wing religious fringe” who oppose mask wearing was a great way to convince people to wear masks.

RELATED: Follow our live coronavirus updates

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the protesters sang “I would rather be a human than a slave” and “you can stick your sanitiser up your arse”.

New restrictions came into effect on Sunday that require people in Greater Sydney to wear a mask in places like shopping centres and on trains.

The Bondi Junction protest came ahead of a $200 fine that will be enforced from Monday.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in a statement that face masks would also be compulsory for staff in hospitality venues and casinos, and for patrons using gaming services.

Children under 12 are exempt but are encouraged to wear masks when possible.

The move to make masks mandatory has been supported by experts including University of New South Wales Professor of Epidemiology Mary-Louise McLaws.

“Masks are an important part of the infection prevention bundle,” she told the Today show on Sunday morning.

“Making it mandatory takes away the decision making by somebody who may not realise that they have the early phase of COVID, and they can spread it just by breathing out and of course by talking.”

NSW reported eight new coronavirus cases on Sunday while Victoria reported three new cases.

Thousands of people in Sydney have been asked to isolate after a second cluster was identified at a BWS bottle shop in the western Sydney suburb of Berala.



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NSW Premier dipped into Stronger Communities Fund during Wagga Wagga by-election


Gladys Berejiklian dipped into an alleged “slush fund” to give a Liberal candidate running for election in Wagga Wagga a $255,000 boost using taxpayer money, a parliamentary committee has heard.

The NSW Premier has been under pressure to explain the handling of the $252 million Stronger Communities Fund since an opposition analysis found 95 per cent of funds went to projects in Coalition-held seats.

On Wednesday, it was revealed a quarter-of-a-million dollars in funding announced during the candidacy of a Liberal candidate – who ultimately failed to capture the electorate of Wagga Wagga during the 2018 by-election – was taken out of the Stronger Communities Fund on the Premier’s personal request.

The funding was announced by the Premier on August 17, 2018 in a press release filed on the Liberal Party website under a candidate page for Julia Ham, the party’s contender for the seat that opened up after Daryl Maguire’s resignation earlier that year over corruption allegations.

“Premier Gladys Berejiklian today announced $255,000 in funding to deliver a range of much-needed tourism projects in the historic former gold mining town of Adelong,” the press release read.

The release also included quotes from Ms Ham and a video where she is seen standing next to Snowy Valley Council Mayor James Hayes, who is heard thanking the Liberal government and urging residents to support Ms Ham.

Though the funds were announced in the heat of the campaign, the money wasn’t formally requested by the council until months later.

A council official emailed the Office of Local Government, which was the government body formally responsible for the Stronger Communities Fund, on December 12, 2018 to detail requests for money out of the fund.

An attached spreadsheet shows the $255,000 as “Funding Announced by Premier for ADELONG 17 August 2018”.

Other documents produced to the committee showed the actual funding agreement between the council and the Office of Local Government wasn’t signed until February 2019 – nearly six months after the Premier’s announcement.

A trio of former top ministerial staffers appeared before the NSW upper house’s Public Accountability Committee on Wednesday to answer questions on the Stronger Communities Fund.

Laura Clarke, former deputy chief of staff in Deputy Premier John Barilaro’s office, and Matthew Crocker, former policy adviser in the Office of the Premier, were asked why Ms Berejiklian announced the Snowy Valley funds during the by-election, despite the council being in a regional area that ordinarily would have been the remit of Mr Barilaro.

“I’m not aware, you’d have to ask the Premier,” Ms Clarke said.

“I was not in charge of announcements in local electorates,” Mr Crocker said.

Kevin Wilde, former chief of staff in the Local Government Minister’s office, was asked what his role was in determining whether a grant would be allocated by the Deputy Premier or the Premier.

“Nothing,” he responded.

Large parts of the money in the Stronger Communities Fund were doled out ahead of the 2019 state election, and Ms Berejiklian has for months fended off accusations it was little more than a “slush fund” used to buy votes.

After briefing notes were previously deleted by her office, and then recovered and handed over to the committee, Ms Berejiklian surprised even some people in her own circle by saying her government “will wear” the pork-barrelling accusation.

She defended the practice as “not illegal” and said the use of public money to “curry favour” with voters is something all politicians do.

“I think that’s part of the political process whether you like it or not,” the Premier previously said.

The committee also revealed the Premier last month declined a request for her to give testimony about the grants program.

A director in the Office of the Premier wrote to committee chair David Shoebridge of the NSW Greens party on November 20 to decline on the Premier’s behalf, saying members could instead question her during budget estimates hearings next year.

The state government is being sought for comment.



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Radical changes tipped for drug laws


People caught with a small amount of illegal drugs in NSW may soon just be let off with a talking to under a proposed radical overhaul of laws.

News.com.au understands the State Cabinet met on Monday night and agreed to look at a new approach to policing drugs across the state.

Under the rules, the current approach to personal drug use could be turned on its head with a warning and fines based system for people caught with a personal quantity of illegal drugs put in place.

A source who spoke to news.com.au said the proposal is a “three chance policy” that would see those caught with personal quantities of illicit drugs initially given a warning and issued a fine on the 2nd and 3rd instance. Only after that would criminal penalties be brought in.

It’s understood the government is still working out the details, such as exactly what amount of drugs would fit under the definition of personal use.

The move follows recommendations for drug law reform after an inquiry into drug-related deaths at music festivals.

Greens MP David Shoebridge — who has long campaigned against the NSW Government’s “heavy-handed” approach to drugs — said the new laws were a step in the right direction.

“This is a victory for common sense, a win for young people who don’t want to be monstered just for being young and ultimately a win for police who can divert these resources to fighting serious crime,” he said.

“These are modest changes, far from full decriminalisation, but if they do become law they will reduce unnecessary and aggressive policing of minor drug offences.

“This will not end the government’s unwinnable war on drugs but it will lead to an important rebalancing of powers between police and civil rights.”

It’s understood the new measures were welcomed by cabinet on Monday, but there are grumblings from the right of the party who believe it makes the government look “soft” on drugs.

State Cabinet is likely to firm up its policy later this month.

In a sweeping five-page report last year state coroner Harriet Grahame called for the introduction of pill testing, removal of sniffer dogs and restricted powers to conduct body searches after she conducted an inquest into the deaths of six festival goers in NSW.

“Decriminalising personal use of drugs as a mechanism to reduce the harm caused by drug use,’’ was one of the recommendations.

The report also called for the removal of drug detections dogs because their presence causes overdoses.



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