The cabinet minister accused of the alleged brutal rape of a teenage girl in 1988 is expected to identify himself and give a public statement on Wednesday, ending nearly a week of fervent speculation over the politician’s identity.
The man, who Prime Minister Scott Morrison said “vigorously denied” the accusations levelled in an anonymous letter, is expected to hold a press conference and take questions.
It is understood the Minister has sought advice from eminent lawyer Peter Bartlett.
The politician is not expected to be offering his resignation and will strongly deny any wrongdoing.
The Minister’s statement was still being drafted on Tuesday night, and the ABC reported the government was hopeful his appearance would mark the end of the matter.
It comes after another frenetic day in federal politics, where calls grew for the man to come forward and end speculation enveloping his colleagues, NSW Police announced their investigation into the allegations was “now closed” due to “insufficient evidence”, and the Parliament set up a dedicated 24/7 crisis support line for staff affected by sexual misconduct incidents.
Government MP Barnaby Joyce also lent his voice to growing demands for an independent inquiry into the historical rape allegation.
“I think there should be an inquiry. The Parliament is not a court, and politicians are not policemen,” Mr Joyce told the ABC.
“If someone said an independent person away from Parliament looked into this, I’d have no problems with that.”
A letter was sent to numerous federal politicians last week, relaying claims from woman who died in June 2020 that she was raped in 1988 by a person who is now a minister.
Police investigation ‘closed’
The Minister, who has not been named publicly – despite numerous claims on social media and in independent media outlets – is expected to speak on Wednesday, according to government sources.
The same sources noted the minister had sought advice from prominent defamation lawyer Mr Bartlett, of firm MinterEllison – seeming to hint that legal action may be considered.
The New Daily contacted the office of a cabinet minister who has been the subject of much speculation online.
No response was given by publication time.
Earlier, NSW Police confirmed their investigation into the 1988 allegations had come to a close – saying there was “insufficient admissible evidence to proceed” with a criminal case.
“As such, NSW Police force has determined the matter is now closed,” a police spokesperson told TND.
The South Australian coroner is investigating the woman’s death, but it is uncertain if that will lead to a coronial inquest
Lawyer calls for inquiry
Following the police development, the lawyer who acted for the woman before her death repeated his calls for an independent judicial inquiry into her claims.
Michael Bradley, of Marque Lawyers, said the police ending their investigation meant the case must be taken up in other ways.
“It means the formal processes the Prime Minister was referring to yesterday are over,” he told TND on Tuesday.
“It’s at an end. If his position was that we have to wait for police to complete their work, well now they’ve completed their investigation. The only process available now is an administrative one. There are plenty of precedents and options for how that could proceed.”
Mr Bradley suggested a judicial inquiry, “completely external to Parliament” and helmed by a retired judge, to weigh evidence and submissions as to the Cabinet Minister’s actions.
He said such processes occurred regularly in other professions, as well as sporting codes, but admitted there was no precedent for this in federal Parliament.
“We have a really serious criminal allegation against someone in one of the most prominent positions in the country,” Mr Bradley said.
“It needs to be a very high form of inquiry, beyond reproach, completely at arms’ length from government, independent, with strong powers of coercion and with all the abilities and powers to make sure the accused man has full procedural fairness.”
He said there was no possibility for such an inquiry to hand down a legal “punishment”, but that it should be able to make a finding as to the person’s suitability to hold their ministerial position.
Turnbull calls for minister to come forward
Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull led calls Tuesday for the man to identify himself.
“If he’s vigorously denied the accusations to the Prime Minister, he should vigorously deny them to the public,” Mr Turnbull told ABC radio on Tuesday.
“Are we seriously going to have a Question Time where the Opposition asks every single minister whether they are the person named in the complaint?”
TND understands Labor was not planning to take such a path once Parliament resumes on March 15, but to “pursue” other means of having the minister’s name on the public record.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who received one of the anonymous letters, suggested MPs had the power to name such a person in Parliament under parliamentary privilege. In a Radio National interview on Monday, she did not rule out doing so herself.
In a statement late on Tuesday, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham announced a 24/7 phone hotline had been set up for people who had experienced misconduct while working in politics, or who had been left upset by the events of recent weeks.
- For confidential support and services around sexual assault, contact 1800 RESPECT online or by phone on 1800 737 732. If you or someone you know needs help contact Life Line on 13 11 14