News MPs admit they knew of rape claims against cabinet minister, casting a dark cloud for PM

MPs admit they knew of rape claims against cabinet minister, casting a dark cloud for PM

Scott Morrison has been accused of misleading parliament Photo: AAP
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Two more federal MPs and former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull say they were aware of rape claims against a member of Scott Morrison’s cabinet that were revealed on Friday.

Labor MP Daniel Mulino said the alleged victim, who was also his friend, had contacted him in December 2019 about wanting to “proceed with a formal complaint”.

He told the ABC he “supported her in that decision” and ensured she “was receiving appropriate support”.

The ABC also confirmed that WA Liberal MP Celia Hammond was also sent the 31-page dossier on the allegations.

It is thought Ms Hammond received the dossier because she had been asked by the Prime Minister to lead an inquiry into the Liberal Party’s workplace culture.

“I received a copy of the correspondence on Wednesday,” Ms Hammond told the ABC.

The confirmations come as Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson revealed she had informed the Australian Federal Police of an email from a woman alleging she was raped by a Labor politician.

Turnbull weighs in

Mr Turnbull on Sunday said he had contact with a woman who alleged she was raped by a current senior Liberal federal minister, and called for an inquest into her suicide death.

Mr Morrison is facing increasing pressure to respond to the historical rape allegations against one of his cabinet ministers, which dates to 1988 before the man entered politics.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese and Greens leader Adam Bandt have described the allegations against the unnamed senior Liberal as “a dark cloud” over Parliament, with calls growing for the Prime Minister to stand down the man involved.

“Parliamentary staff shouldn’t be going to work wondering if they’re working alongside someone who has been accused of such a heinous crime,” Mr Bandt said on Sunday.

“The position of the accused means this is a matter of national significance.”

Parliament House has been rocked by yet more allegations. Photo: AAP

ABC’s Four Corners on Friday reported the Australian Federal Police had been notified of the letter sent to the Prime Minister, Labor senator Penny Wong and Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, detailing the alleged rape of a then-16-year-old girl in 1988 in Sydney, by one of Mr Morrison’s current cabinet ministers.

Senator Hanson-Young said the claims in the letter, which reportedly detailed the alleged incident in graphic detail, were “disturbing and very serious”.

The alleged victim took her own life in June.

At a writer’s event in Adelaide, Mr Turnbull said the woman had written to him in 2019 – after he had quit politics – detailing the allegations against the minister and that she was in contact in police.

“She described a pretty horrific rape that she said had occurred at the hands of this person, a person she said is now in the cabinet,” Mr Turnbull said.

He said he wrote back expressing sympathy and concern for her, and told her she was doing the right thing in going to police.

The former PM said after learning of the woman’s death in South Australia in the middle of 2020, it struck him there would likely be an inquest.

“I got in touch with the police commissioner here and I sent him the correspondence she sent us and our reply,” Mr Turnbull said.

South Australia Police are preparing a report for the coroner on the woman’s death.

Mr Turnbull said the woman told him she had “kept extensive diaries”.

“A woman who has got a complaint ongoing about a senior public figure, taking her own life … There clearly needs to be some form of inquest,” he said.

Allegations a ‘test’ for Morrison: Albanese

Mr Albanese stopped short of calling for the minister to be stood aside, but said the latest allegations – coming after a fortnight in which three women connected to the Liberal Party made claims of rape against the same former ministerial staffer – were a “test” for Mr Morrison.

“The Prime Minister must confirm to himself that it remains the case that the minister, who is the subject of these allegations, that it’s appropriate for him to stay in his current position,” the Labor leader told ABC’s Insiders.

Mr Albanese said it was crucial the claims were “not politically managed”.

“It is appropriate they be investigated by the authorities. But this now will be a very much a dark cloud over the Parliament and over the Cabinet,” he said.

Mr Albanese claimed there were “rumours around Parliament House for a considerable period of time” about this alleged incident, “particularly around the Four Corners program” late last year which detailed the mistreatment of women in the Liberal Party.

Senator Wong said she had been approached by the woman and told of the allegations in November 2019.

The New Daily understands Mr Morrison, Senator Wong and Senator Hanson-Young received an anonymous letter last week, addressed to their Parliament House offices.

The letter, which has not been made public in full, is understood to outline the allegations in graphic detail and include a statement from the alleged victim.

The correspondence was not signed, but the ABC reported the woman told many friends and family of her allegations.

Senator Penny Wong. Photo: AAP

South Australian senator Rex Patrick told TND “the cabinet minister in question must stand down pending the outcome of any investigation”.

Mr Morrison has not made any public statement on the rape allegation, nor given any public appearance since the story broke on Friday.

The government’s Statement of Ministerial Standards says the Prime Minister has power “to decide whether and when a
minister should stand aside if that minister becomes the subject of an official investigation of alleged illegal or improper conduct”.

“Ministers will be required to stand aside if charged with any criminal offence, or if the Prime Minister regards their conduct as constituting a prima facie breach of these standards,” the standards state.

“Ministers will be required to resign if convicted of a criminal offence”.

No charges have been laid in relation to the allegations in the letter.

AFP commissioner Reece Kershaw wrote to Mr Morrison last week, warning “failure to report alleged criminal behaviour” in a timely manner “risks prejudicing any subsequent police investigation”.

On Sunday, Health Minister Greg Hunt said he had no further information on the claims, but reinforced the government’s position that such reports should be left to a police investigation.

“The AFP commissioner was very, very clear that these are matters for police and strongly discouraged commentary on those matters,” he said.

Liberal accusation

On Sunday night, Senator Henderson said she reported an email from a woman alleging she had been raped by a Labor MP to the Australian Federal Police.

She said she did so in line with advice from the AFP Commissioner, who last week urged all MPs to swiftly report alleged criminal misconduct.

The AFP confirmed they received a complaint relating to an historical sexual assault but would not comment further.

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-with AAP

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