With The Defamation Case Settled, Will We Finally See An Inquiry Into Christian Porter?
Greens senator Larissa Waters is leading the charge.
Yesterday it was announced that the former Attorney-General Christian Porter discontinued his extremely high-stakes defamation claim against the ABC.
In a public statement, the ABC disclosed that both parties had agreed not to pursue the matter further, and that no damages would be paid by the national broadcaster, other than the mediation costs. The decision has people asking if there will now be an inquiry into the accusations Porter faced in the first place.
There have been revived calls for an independent inquiry into the historic rape allegations against Porter that the ABC reported on earlier this year, with Greens senator Larissa Waters tweeting today about her plans to bring a bill to parliament calling for an inquiry into the allegations when Senate next sits.
— Larissa Waters (@larissawaters) June 1, 2021
— CW: This article contains discussion of sexual assault and suicide. —
The Allegations Against Christian Porter
Back in February, Four Corners reporter Louise Milligan shared details of a letter that had been sent to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, containing information about an “alleged rape, which occurred in 1988 before the accused man entered politics”.
According to the letter, the accused man was a now-serving cabinet minister who the ABC did not name. But on March 3, Christian Porter outed himself as the person being accused.
The allegations were from a woman who claimed she had been raped by Porter when she was 16 years old. The woman had taken her own life in June 2020.
According to Milligan, the letter was written by an anonymous friends of the woman, and had originally been sent to Penny Wong and Sarah Hanson-Young before being supposedly passed on to the Australian Federal Police.
The ‘Four Corners’ Report
After the Four Corners report, NSW Police released a statement saying that a woman had reported an alleged historical rape by Porter back in February 2020.
A formal investigation was launched at the time — codenamed ‘Strike Force Wyndarr’a — to look into the allegations against the then-Federal Attorney-General.
Parliamentary documents from March this year show that back in March 2020 the “strike force sought to travel to South Australia to speak to the complainant”, but because of COVID-19 and domestic border closures, it was deemed too unsafe to do so.
According to the ABC, the woman who had reported the alleged rape to NSW Police later told them that she no longer wished to proceed with the criminal investigation. The next day she took her life, and the investigation was suspended.
Ever since then, NSW Police have refused to reopen the case because the woman never went ahead with a formal complaint.
So, What About An Independent Inquiry?
ScoMo has rejected calls to launch an independent inquiry into the allegations in the past, because he claimed he could only form a judgement on the allegations based on what the police have reported.
“They are the competent and authorised authorities to make the judgments about any such allegations. And they have made their conclusions. That’s where the matter rests,” Morrison told reporters in March.
NSW police have always said there is insufficient evidence to continue their criminal investigation, which means there may well be no resolution to this case.
“Nothing has changed. We’re back where we started,” Michael Bradley from Marquee Lawyers — who represented the woman at the centre of the allegations, before her death — told The New Daily.
But now that the defamation case has discontinued, Labor and the Greens are calling again for an independent inquiry.
“Only a truly independent inquiry, conducted at arm’s length from government according procedural fairness to Mr Porter and all witnesses appearing before it, will provide an opportunity for the serious allegations against Mr Porter to be tested,” Mark Dreyfus, Labor’s shadow attorney, wrote in a statement. “Australians must be satisfied Mr Porter is a fit and proper person to serve in federal cabinet.”
Waters’ announcement that she is drafting a bill to introduce to the Senate in two weeks’ time suggests that there is some possibility of a commission of inquiry actually happening. But for now, only time will tell.
The Christian Porter allegations are supposedly the worst claims to be made against an Australian cabinet minister while in office ever — despite Porter continuously denying the claims.