NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley Has Been Accused Of Sexual Harassment

"Women should be able to go about their professional lives and socialise without being subject to this sort of behaviour. And I want it to stop."

Labor leader Luke Foley has been accused of sexually harassing an ABC journalist.

NSW Leader of the Opposition Luke Foley is under pressure to resign after allegedly touching an ABC journalist inappropriately at a Parliament Christmas function in 2016.

The allegations were made public today in a harrowing statement by ABC journalist Ashleigh Raper, who made it clear that she did not wish to be speaking publicly on the issue at all, but felt forced to by recent events, including escalating media attention after another MP alluded to the accusations in NSW Parliament.

“This is a position I never wanted to be in and a statement I never intended to make,” Raper wrote in a statement today. “But I think the time has come for my voice to be heard, for the following reasons:

  • The escalation of the public debate, including in state and federal parliament, despite my expressed wish to neither comment nor complain, and the likelihood of ongoing media and political interest.
  • Two recent phone conversations with the Leader of the New South Wales Opposition Luke Foley.”

Raper then briefly detailed Foley’s alleged behaviour towards her, saying that after a Christmas function at NSW Parliament House in November 2016, “Luke Foley approached a group of people, including me, to say goodnight.”

“He stood next to me. He put his hand through a gap in the back of my dress and inside my underpants. He rested his hand on my buttocks. I completely froze.”

“This was witnessed by Sean Nicholls, who was then the state political editor at the Sydney Morning Herald and is now an ABC journalist.”

Raper wrote that she had discussed the incident with Nicholls as well as ABC Management and informed them that she did not intend to make a complaint or speak publicly about the incident, and that “they respected my request for privacy and have offered me nothing but their absolute care and support”. She made clear that when Liberal MP David Elliott raised the issue in Parliament last month, that “this occurred without my involvement or consent”.

“I chose not to make a complaint for a number of reasons,” Raper wrote. “It is clear to me that a woman who is the subject of such behaviour is often the person who suffers once a complaint is made. I cherished my position as a state political reporter and feared that would be lost.”

“I also feared the negative impact the publicity could have on me personally and on my young family. This impact is now being felt profoundly.”

In her statement, Raper added that she had recently received two phone calls from Luke Foley himself, who “said he was sorry and that he was full of remorse for his behaviour towards me at the Press Gallery Christmas function in November 2016”.

She alleged that Foley told her “I’m not a philanderer, I’m not a groper, I’m just a drunk idiot”, and promised that he would resign as NSW Opposition leader this week. Raper alleges that Foley then called her again on Tuesday to say that he had received legal advice not to resign his position, and intended to follow it.

Publicly, Foley has rejected the vague allegations of harassment made against him in Parliament to be untrue. He has yet to comment following Raper’s statement today.

Raper concluded her statement by writing that “there are three things I want to come from my decision to make this statement.”

“First, women should be able to go about their professional lives and socialise without being subject to this sort of behaviour. And I want it to stop. Second, situations like mine should not be discussed in parliament for the sake of political point scoring. And I want it to stop.”

“Third, I want to get on with my life. I do not wish to make any further comment.”

You can read Raper’s statement in full here.

Feature image via Kate Ausburn CC BY 2.0